The Los Angeles Unified School District board will decide today whether to continue the Breakfast in the Classroom program, which has faced some criticism for cutting into instruction time and causing some unsanitary conditions at schools.
Parent and union groups have staged a series of rallies in support of the program in recent weeks, saying it provides meals for nearly 200,000 children with the idea that students are more attentive and perform better if they start the day with a nutritious breakfast.
Officials with the Service Employees International Union, meanwhile, have said that canceling the program could threaten the jobs of about 900 cafeteria workers. But serving food to students in classrooms has generated concerns from some teachers who complained about problems such as rotten food and an increase in bugs.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said he is a strong supporter of the program, and he was confident the school board would vote to continue it.
"The evidence is clear that students who eat healthy food perform better in the classroom," he said. "It is my belief children have a fundamental right to a healthy meal prior to beginning their instructional day."
Deasy said the program also generates money for the district, including about $6 million this year that goes into the district's general fund.
Despite the concerns expressed by its members, United Teachers Los Angeles officials issued a statement saying that while there are "serious problems" with the program, "these problems can and must be overcome so students get a nutritional breakfast and a full instructional day. It is not an either/or for children."
"Of course children learn better when they start the day with a nutritious breakfast," UTLA President Warren Fletcher said. "And every child deserves a full instructional day. One without the other does not make sense."