DOE Preparing to Serve Breakfast in P.S. 234 and P.S. 150 Classrooms

In March, a Peck Slip student picks up breakfast in the school cafeteria after the DOE allowed free breakfasts to be served in both the cafeteria and the classroom. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jun. 06, 2016

Breakfast in the Classroom, a new program being rolled out around the city to help children start the school day on a full stomach and ready to learn, is slated for two Tribeca elementary schools: P.S. 234 and P.S. 150.

The program, largely targeted to low-income families, is called a success by city education officials who say it has cut by more than half the number of children who skip breakfast in the morning. But critics argue that it is a waste of instructional time in the schools of more affluent families, where most children eat breakfast at home or at least get to school in time to eat the free breakfast that is served in the cafeteria before the bell rings.

Parents and staff of the Peck Slip School at Peck Slip and Pearl Street strongly opposed Breakfast in the Classroom when it was mandated for their new school last fall. Several months later, a compromise hybrid plan was reached that restored the cafeteria breakfast, which had been eliminated, but still provided a “grab and go” option for children to eat in class.

During the breakfast furor, Community Board 1 called on the Department of Education to exclude schools in its district from the program. Hoping to convince the board to reverse its position, two DOE officials made a presentation in April to CB1’s Youth and Education Committee, where they announced that the program will be implemented in P.S. 234 and P.S. 150 in 2018. Judy Villeneuve of the DOE’s Office of School Support Services tried to reassure the committee that the DOE “works very closely and collaboratively with the principal to find out how the program will work best at their school.” She said that principals are not notified until the April before the program is scheduled to begin.

Informed by the Trib that her school is targeted for the program, P.S. 234 Principal Lisa Ripperger declined to comment. Principal Jenny Bonnet said she opposed it for P.S. 150.

“It’s great for some schools, it’s not good for this school. It doesn’t work for us,” she said in an interview, calling the program “a waste of instructional time.”

“We already have a breakfast program and it’s before school and we don’t even have that many kids who come to that,” she added.

Out of 184 students, Bonnet said, at most 10 take the breakfast offered before school starts. And those are children who are dropped off early because their parents have to get to work, she said.

Wendy Chapman, a member of the CB1 Youth Committee and a former president of the P.S. 150 PTA, complained to the DOE officials that her son, who eats breakfast at home, “would eat whatever is out there. And I don’t want him to have a second breakfast.” Told by Villeneuve that it would be up to the teacher to prevent that, Chapman responded, “I would never do that to the teacher.”

Villeneuve argued that even one child who misses breakfast is too many. “No matter how affluent the community that you’re in, there are always some kids who could use the breakfast,” she said, noting that the program has led to fewer children going to the nurse or disrupting their class.

At the Peck Slip School, with there are 250 students, Villeneuve said that about 30 children eat school breakfasts—20 more than before the program began. In an effort to support her argument, Villeneuve distributed copies of an email she received from Peck Slip Principal Maggie Siena in which Siena thanked her for working with us to come up with an approach that works well for our school community.

The committee, however, declined to write a new resolution that would reverse their position.