Moldy muffins, rotten fruit and school sinks clogged with uneaten cereal have been reported as problems plaguing the "Breakfast in the Classroom" program run by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
United Teachers Los Angeles wrote on its website that the program gave students expired food, and offered food lacking nutritional value. The association also alleged that the program wasted 15 minutes per day that could be dedicated to learning.
Superintendent John Deasy denied the allegations, saying the program is necessary for those who couldn’t afford a nutritious breakfast at home.
"There is no food in the house to feed your child -- that's why you have this program," Deasy said.
Deasy went on to cite other time-consuming health care initiatives – like screenings for cavities and scoliosis – as programs that the teachers were not opposed to, unlike the free breakfast service.
About 300 schools are reportedly testing the "Breakfast in the Classroom" program, which Deasy plans to expand to all LAUSD schools.
One of the main arguments from the teachers’ union is that the program wastes instructional time.
"Parents, make no mistake: teachers are not trying to deny your child of breakfast at school. We believe that breakfast should happen before the instructional day begins, and in the cafeteria instead of the classroom," United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement.
The program was originally housed in cafeterias, but students failed to show up before class, school officials said. With the program held during class, LAUSD officials can make sure the students get fed.
"We do not want to make it difficult to eat. We want to make it positive," Deasy said.
The program may be needed more than ever, according to Dr. Matthew Keefer, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, who said he is seeing more families in need.
"We see families that are stressed for food, shelter, sustenance, and so I think we are clearly seeing them looking for ways to get their kids fed," Keefer said.