Published January 09, 2012
A top New York City Department of Health official has criticized a free breakfast program in city schools, saying it makes poor kids fat.
Director of Community Epidemiology Gretchen Van Wye said in-class meals result in a whopping 21.2 percent of kids gobbling up two breakfasts.
"Special care should be taken to ensure that children are not inadvertently taking in excess calories by eating in multiple locations," she wrote in a research paper recently presented to her agency co-workers, sources told the New York Post.
She said "further evaluations" are needed to weigh caloric consumption in schools with the program versus schools without.
Some of Van Wye's colleagues are losing their lunch over the controversial study, fearing that the Yale-educated scientist's findings could lay the groundwork for scrapping part or all of city's free breakfast program.
"We'd rather have kids be hungry than fat? Horrible!" a stunned health official told the New Post. "The evidence is so shaky. And the implications are terrible—kids going hungry."
Van Wye's paper examines the impact of in-class breakfasts, a voluntary program that was introduced in 2008.
The study, conducted between January and March 2010, looked at the results of the program on 2,289 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in East and Central Harlem, North and Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx, so called "high need" neighborhoods, and compared kids who ate in class with kids in control schools where breakfast is served only in the cafeteria. It found that about one in five kids who ate in class were eating breakfast twice.
There was no waffling about the study among concerned critics.
"It's not become policy, but I shudder to think it's even being discussed by researchers," a Department of Health source said.
The 224,623 free breakfasts served daily are available at all 1,600 city schools, and about 10 percent of schools participate in the in-class breakfasts, which feature tempting treats such as cream cheese and bagels, string cheese and apple loaf.
Federal guidelines mandate the meals be roughly 450 calories, and there is no difference in the caloric content from the cafeteria or the classroom breakfasts.