January 16, 2009

Philly Schools Can't Give Free Food Away


The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that:

Just one in three low-income students eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts got those meals in Philadelphia schools during the 2006-07 school year, according to a national report released yesterday.

...

Since the 2006-07 school year, however, the district has worked to improve the situation, a district spokesman said. But problems persist in the surprisingly complex and nuanced world of school breakfast.


So now serving breakfast is too complex and nuanced for schools to deliver.

Remember the hullabaloo a few months back regarding the community schools and the desire for schools to take over a whole panoply of social services.

Now we find out they can't even serve breakfast effectively. And, breakfast is very similar to lunch, something they've been doing for a long time.

And I don't want to hear that the schools don't get enough subsidy for these meals. We went to Disney World last month and the Disney Dining Plan was $9.99 for children who received a counter service lunch, a full restaurant table service dinner and a snack that could include almost any food product sold by Disney for about $3.50, including many breakfast items.

Contrast this to the french fries served by my high school whose box read "no nutritional value but edible." Mmmmm-mmmm.

13 comments:

Downes said...

Serving breakfast is easy. Letting low-income students into the cafeteria to eat it is hard.

Once again you misrepresent the situation.

It's not the same as a privately run school cafeteria, where nobody cares about the no-shows. Then it's easy to serve breakfast.

> We went to Disney World last month and the Disney Dining Plan was $9.99 for children who received a counter service lunch

More misrepresentation.

How much did you pay to get *in* to Disney World?

Kathy said...

DeRosa states:

"Remember the hullabaloo a few months back regarding the community schools and the desire for schools to take over a whole panoply of social services."

Who said anything about having the schools administer after school and weekend use of the buildings? Rent them out to other groups. My school has a great library, a computer room and a gym. The gym is already used by local sport groups so it is doable. Public libraries are closing in Phila, yet many schools do have libraries that could be shared. Share the resources since they are now so limited. Be creative. Buildings sitting empty all evening, weekends and all summer seems silly to me.

My Philly school administers breakfast. However, we are a small school so it is very easy to do. Finding staff to actually pass out the food seems to be an obstacle for some schools. The kdg children in my school eat in their rooms. The article did advocate this but food in all the rooms created a mouse problem in my school so we now try to consolidate food and eating to one area of the school. I have been in schools overrun by cockroaches, another big issue with food everywhere in buildings.

If the principals are so resistant to feeding kids, fire them. Don't they have bosses who can tell them, FEED THE KIDS. How hard is this?

BTW, a child in my tutoring program told me the best part of his day at school is the FOOD. Not recess or gym or computers, but FOOD.

Kathy

rightwingprof said...

"Letting low-income students into the cafeteria to eat it is hard."

Oh really? How, exactly, is it "hard"?

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Sme years ago, Kohala Hospital hired an administrator, who looked into the costs of the food service program. He deduced that the Food Service Manager, Clarence Rengulbai, had purchased food which never the hospital never served to patients. The new administrator fired Mr. Rengulbai. Mr. Rengulbai appealed his dismissal, and his union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) called for an audit. The Health Department auditors found nothing amiss with the accounts of the Food Service program. The new administrator hired an outside auditor, who determined that $200,000 had gone missing from the Food Service program. Ultimately, a court found Mr. Rengulbai guilty of theft and sentenced him to repayment, at $200 per pay period. No jail time. Why did the (Democrat-appointed) judge grant such leniency? Why didn't the Health Department auditors find the theft? Ask and answer one more question: "What was Mr. Rengulbai doing with all that food?" and all becomes clear.

He was catering Democratic Party fundraisers.

There is (was, last I looked) a two-year cycle in Hawaii DOE food purchases. They rise in even-numbered (i.e., election) years.

KDeRosa said...

Serving breakfast is easy.

I suppose it is as long as you exclude the hard part about enticing the customers to purchase the food in the first place. And let's not forget that the schools have a captive audience and the meals are either free or reduced.

Letting low-income students into the cafeteria to eat it is hard.

I have no idea what this means.

It's not the same as a privately run school cafeteria, where nobody cares about the no-shows. Then it's easy to serve breakfast.

This is merely a contracting out of services situation. And the specifics of the contactual arrangement determine how much the food service company cares about the volume of business, such as if their fee were proportional to the amount of children served.

How much did you pay to get *in* to Disney World?

The same way everyone else did. We paid an admission fee which did not include any food. The dining plan is optional. You can, and many do, choose to pay a la carte. I'm sure Disney is not running this optional plan at a loss.

Dick Schutz said...

In all fairness to Philly, the school breakfast program appears to be a mess "all over. The Food Research and Action Center report

www.frac.org/pdf/SBP_2007.pdf

gives data for States only. PA ranks 41, but that beats CN 51, MA 44, and NJ 49.

A breakdown for private and charter schools would be very interesting. I'd bet a dollar to a donut that both private and charter schools do even worse.

Other than the nutritional import, what I found interesting in the reportis that it's not about the money, and it's not about the kids. The great state of California lost $90 million from schools providing lunch but not breakfast.

It's not about the kids either. It's about the whims of situational personnel This holds not only for nutrition, it holds for instruction and for all school services. At all governance levels, schools are administered, not managed.

With all the talk about "reform" amd "accountability" "data-driven" and blah blah blah,there is no solid management information and no attention to costs linked to instructional accomplishments and services.

"We're making gains" the President tells us. And that line is echoed by state and local authorities and reported in the media.

I keep telling ya. The weakness is at the top of the EdChain--in every aspect of EdLand.

Stacy in NJ said...

I haven't read all the comments, but the obvious answer is that breakfast is served BEFORE classes, requiring students to actually get to school early. With low performing schools that's just not gonna happen. The HBO documentary, shown a few months back, showed a significant problem with tardiness. Bad free food just isn't enough incentive.

Dick Schutz said...

The report recommends making breakfast a part of the school day:

"Incorporating breakfast formally into the school day dramatically increases participation by making
it convenient and accessible to all. For instance, it eliminates the barrier often caused by tight bus schedules that get children to school too late to eat in the cafeteria in the mornings Alternative service methods include breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast service fromcarts or kiosks set up in school hallways or cafeterias, and breakfast after first period fo middle- and high- school students."

Joanne Jacobs said...

"Schools" is misspelled in the headline.

Poor kids will get to school early for a free breakfast, cutting down on tardiness and absenteeism. "Lunch ladies" will show up to serve breakfast too for very modest wages. Any school that serves lunch should be able to do breakfast.

Federal regs do push up costs: Schools have to serve a full breakfast; a bowl of oatmeal won't do.

Stacy said...

Joanne, Do you have data?

"Poor kids will get to school early for a free breakfast, cutting down on tardiness and absenteeism."

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks that it's tragic that children have to eat breakfast in an institution instead of at home? Give the parents the food commodities, for God's sake, and let the children eat with their families.

KDeRosa said...

There are a host of programs that already do; why we need another school-based one is beyond me.

Dick Schutz said...

Maybe we should call this "Balanced Bashing." First we bash schools for not being able to give free food away. Then we bash them because they shouldn't be trying to give it away in the first place.

If we bailed them out with a few hundred billion dollars, d'ya think that would be enough stimulus?

This inconsistency is manifestation of a larger one. "Community schools" are being promoted, giving schools enlarged societal responsibility while schools are currently unable to reliably accomplish the basic instructional responsibility of teaching kids to read and to handle math through algebra.