Coffee cake, pan dulce, breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches. Have you ever thought about how this food is prepared? Breakfast in the classroom is a meal we are all exposed to every weekday but much of the student body is unaware of how this food is made. Objectively speaking, students know next to nothing about the content of their food which has quite literally imposed on our student body. Lack of choice has created a division between the consumer and the food, in turn decreasing the number of students eating breakfast, which lowers students' appreciation for food and their sensitivity to food waste. It also negatively impacts student learning. Educating consumers on the process of how our food is prepared and processed might discourage students from throwing away excess food.
An LAUSD statistic reported that prior to free breakfast a measly 29% of students bought breakfast and over 500,000 were deprived of this crucial meal. As a result “learning suffered.” Following this discovery, LAUSD created breakfast in the classroom to ensure all students were guaranteed breakfast, regardless of whether they qualified for reduced lunch. This decision sparked backlash from UTLA, who encouraged feeding students without interrupting class time. It also brought up suspicions regarding the district's intentions as breakfast had already been implemented before class.
A possible explanation for the sudden change may be that the district is reimbursed by the United States Department of Agriculture if they follow their guidelines for breakfast. Posing the question if this change was for student benefit or financial gain. The guidelines the USDA has established include a cup of fruit/ vegetables, two servings of “grain-rich products,” and eight ounces of fat-free milk. Grain rich encompasses a range of foods varying from Cinnamon Toast Crunch to a breakfast burrito. Dietary guidelines suggested grain content should be whole grain as opposed to the enriched grain we so commonly eat. The question of whether or not our food is whole grain-rich was a concern, Mathilda Barr, a junior at Eagle Rock High School brought up. “In a school where athletics are a priority for many, it is important that students are able to eat healthy and get the best possible nutrition to fuel their activity, such as eating meals.” Enriched grain lacks vital fiber our body needs to properly maintain bowel health. After speaking with Area food service supervisor, Tumara Arnett, I was glad to hear that we are part of the “whole grain council” or 51% or more of our entrees contain whole wheat, affirming that our food is meeting USDA standards.
While rumors continue to spread among students regarding the content of the food, LAUSD has released the nutritional facts of our breakfast items, not including the ingredients. This has left students wondering why they are withholding information from us. Claiming to create “nourishing entrees,” and “ensuring that healthy meals and / or snacks are always available to students,” the lack of information provided fails to support their argument. After speaking with Area food service supervisor, Tumara Arnett, she mentioned the difficulty of providing ingredients considering the temporary duration of certain items and mentioned she would “get back to me” regarding the ingredients being posted online.
It is no secret the school district has withheld information from their student body. This year’s strike was a prime example of this. Withholding information regarding nutritional information such as the ingredients to a coffee cake creates a hostile student-district relationship. Students have described the district as top brass “tyrants who don’t take student opinion in mind.” They are the looming figures of authority who the kids have no interaction with. Arnett responded to the proposal of working alongside students claiming that the district typically ensures our voices are heard by allowing students to vote on which foods they prefer. However, for Eagle Rock High School, this system only included ASB which is just one group of students in our school of thousands. While she made it certain that peer involvement is appreciated among LAUSD, encouraging more student participation in deciding meal plans can create a more compassionate student body.
The quality of the food is not the only problem, the amount of plastic packaging that the food comes in is noticeably excessive. When asked about how LAUSD hopes to mitigate food and plastic waste, Arnett stated she has made a concerted effort to reduce plastic waste and mentioned the reduction of plastic being used to carry juice. Previously, the juice and fruit were placed in a large plastic bag which she deemed unnecessary, through her efforts, this method is no longer in place. Arnett emphasized the need for student cooperation in order to reduce waste by bringing breakfast on time. If the food is returned and the milk is at a temperature where it can be reused, the school can use it for the next day's breakfast. This demonstrates the district's willingness to change their ways to reduce waste.
While the addition of breakfast in the classroom to the LAUSD setting has provided an exponentially larger number of students’ breakfast, questions regarding the content of the food, food waste, as well as its questionable nutritious values have posed an issue for the student body. One thing is for sure, the addition of free meals at schools has increased access to balanced and filling meals for students all across Los Angeles, giving everyone an equal opportunity to learn on a full stomach.