What You Need to Know: June 2013

Published in FSD Update

This month: New food trucks, palm reader testing and breakfast in the classroom is saved.

> Los Angeles Saves Breakfast in the Classroom Program

Breakfast in the classroom was under fire in the nation’s second largest school district. Last year 300 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) implemented a Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program. The program received some harsh criticism in April when United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union that represents LAUSD released the results of a survey that found that half of the survey’s 729 respondents didn’t like the BIC program, saying it was messy and took up instructional time.

To appease the union, Superintendent John Deasy didn’t include funding for the BIC program in his 2013-2014 budget. Deasy, however, recommended to the school board that it reaffirm the program and find the $6.1 million the foodservice department needed to run the program. The school board did exactly that in mid-May. “We have seen the benefit of Breakfast in the Classroom and the positive impact it’s had on our children and schools,” said Board President Mónica García.

LAUSD’s Foodservice Director David Binkle says he’s asked the union for the names of the schools where teachers reported issues, but he has not been provided with that information yet. Binkle says BIC has run in 120 early education programs for the past 30 years and there has never been an issue with pests or mess.

9%

The decrease in the amount of students in the paid meal category that have purchased school lunch from September to December 2012, the first four months that the new meal pattern regulations have been enacted, compared to the same time period in 2011. Overall lunch participation decreased 3%. There was a 4% decline in student participation in the reduced-price category. The numbers are from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which is monitoring participation in school meals following the implementation of the first round of requirements as specified under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The organization did find that the average number of daily participation was higher in November and December than it was in September and October, perhaps signifying that students are more accepting of the changes made to school lunches. School breakfast during the same period increased over the 2011 numbers by 2%. There was, however, a decrease in the number of students in the paid category, at 1%.

15%

The increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables that students eat after participating in the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which offers free fruits and vegetables to 7,100 schools in low-income areas.

> School District Tests Palm Reader

Two schools in the Torrance (California) School District are testing palm scanners as a way to get students through cafeteria lines more quickly. Food Services Director Anna Apoian says the technology is being piloted with eighth-grade students at Hawthorne Middle School and fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School.

“The goal is to get more children through the lines at lunch,” says Apoian, who notes that kids typically have about 20 minutes to pick up their meals and eat. Sometimes, she says, kids don’t get through the process in time, particularly at Hawthorne, where students have to cross the street to even reach the undersized cafeteria.

“We’ve had some glitches with the scanners,” Apoian says. “They don’t always read a child’s hand, and we’ve had the system crash more than a few times.”

This isn’t the first space-age system used in the district. The foodservice department already uses a facial recognition program to identify employees when they punch their time clocks.

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