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In Oakland schools, free breakfast for all

flamin hot cheetos. image from the 3768 cups of water's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsTeachers: On a given day, how many of your students come to your classroom with a stomach full of soda and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?  (I’m afraid to try these things; I hear they have a special addictive quality, but don’t really want to find out.)

Oakland Unified’s nutrition services director, Jennifer LeBarre, hopes to cut into Frito Lay’s breakfast market by offering a square meal to all kids for free, regardless of family income. Last school year, about 40 schools did this; now, kids at 94 schools — all of the ones that provide breakfast, which is most of them — have access to free breakfast.

On the menu this morning: for elementary school kids, cold cereal with graham crackers, scrambled eggs with toast, orange juice and milk. Middle and high school students had the option of starting their day with cereal, hot grits, cinnamon toast with syrup or a bagel with cream cheese.

The cost: LeBarre said the district would only take in about $10,000 less from the students who paid for breakfast, and that most of the money would be recovered from increased federal reimbursements.

“We decided, `Let’s do it because it’s the right thing to do,’” she said.

The numbers aren’t in yet, but she says she’s hearing there have been lots more requests for milk.

Also on LeBarre’s to-do list: Offering more “second-chance” breakfasts, served for free at 9:30 for students who don’t get to school early enough to eat before class starts  (happening at Madison Middle School in Sobrante Park and Castlemont’s East Oakland School of the Arts).

Breakfast in the Classroom: Melrose Leadership Academy, a K-8 school (well, for now a K-1 and 6-8) near Mills College, does this to make sure their kids start the day on a full stomach. West Oakland Middle School is doing the same this year, LeBarre said.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • oaklandteacher

    I want to commend Nutrition Services. At East Oakland School of the Arts, we offer a 15 minute nutrition break at 9:30 am where they can receive a snack because lunch got moved back an hour. We wanted our students to have an additional piece of nutrition after breakfast since lunch is not until 1:16.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Wondering

    This is such a wonderful step in the right direction. Jennifer has been so receptive to groups working on behalf of better school food, and has shown herself to be a real advocate for children’s health. Bravo!

  • Oakland Parent

    Three cheers for Jennier LeBarre and Oakland Unified Nutrition Services! They work so very hard in spite of the fact that they are unappreciated and underfunded. Well done!