NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Council and the Bloomberg administration are in a food fight over free breakfasts for low-income students.
New York City ranks last among major U.S. cities in providing free breakfasts for kids who qualify for them.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports
The free meals are only available in a quarter of city schools, and only one-third of eligible students are eating them. On Wednesday, the City Council passed two resolutions by a vote of 42-2, asking the state legislature to take action.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports
“Currently, only 34 percent of New York City schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced lunch eat breakfast at school. When compared with other big cities across the country, Newark, for example, at 87.2 percent or Houston at 79.1 percent, our performance in abysmal,” City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) said at an education committee hearing on Wednesday.
“As a result, hundreds of thousands of New York City schoolchildren are not getting the food that they need and that they are entitled to and we are sending over $50 million per year back to Washington,” Levin said.
The federal government pays for the meals, but the Bloomberg administration has said the program could add to the childhood obesity epidemic.
Following the vote, a statement from the mayor’s office said that “We want to make sure that no child is hungry and every child has a healthy breakfast, which is why we have made free breakfast available to each of our 1.1 million students, regardless of income.”
However, it went on to note 40 percent of the city’s school children are either overweight of obese.
“We are appropriately concerned in making sure that our work to solve one problem doesn’t inadvertently exacerbate the other,” the statement read.
“It’s critical to increase involvement in order to support student’s physical and academic well-being. Children who eat breakfast pay more attention in the classroom and are more engaged in their work and we know factually perform better academically,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said at the hearing.
“Only about 28% of elementary school students, 15% of middle school students and 12% of high school students participate in the school breakfast program,” Quinn said.
One mother told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks she supports the federally-funded free breakfast program.
“Most children, as my own 11-year-old, I’m usually running out the door chasing her with a piece of toast to make sure she eats,” she said. “So I think it’s a fabulous idea that they can relax and sit at their desks and have breakfast, should they want it.”
Do you think free breakfasts should be available to New York City students, or do you agree with the Bloomberg administration? Sound off below…