This House would provide breakfast for all school students

Breakfast, the first meal of the day is a vitally important especially for school students, yet in deprived neighbourhoods there are many who go to school hungry. This debate proposes to end this by having schools provide a meal for every one of their pupils at the start of each day. The government would pay for this in all non-fee paying schools. Those schools that charge fees would have to implement the policy themselves but this would usually simply mean a small increase in fees so would have little impact. This debate is often restricted just to primary or elementary school students but there is little reason why the arguments cannot apply to secondrary school students as well.

Variations on this suggestion are done around the world. In the UK a policy that gave free school meals to the poorest was expanded to reach 1.9million, all children of ages 4 to 7 years old in 2014.[1] Free school meals are also provided in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.[2] Providing breakfast for free is even rarer as school is usually deemed to have started after breakfast time. The United States has a School Breakfast Program however it is not universal and is not always free rather, it is free for those whose families are on incomes under 130% of the poverty rate and subsidised for those between 130% and 185%.[3]

 

Note: this is a debate for Debate in the Neighbourhood; we have kept the arguments short and simple following the SEXI model. In your debate you may well have much more personal examples than those here.

[1] BBC News, ‘Q&A; Free school meals for infants’, 2 September 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28981684

[2] Osowski, Christine Persson, ‘The Swedish School Meal as a Public Meal’, Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, 80, http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:544062/FULLTEXT01 p.1.

[3] Food and Nutrition Service, ‘The School Breakfast Program’, September 2013 http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SBPfactsheet.pdf

 

 

Title 
A school breakfast gives all students an equal start to the day
Point 

All children should have equal opportunities, a breakfast for all helps provide this. With schools providing breakfast for everyone the start to the day will be the same for all. No one will starting school hungry or thirsty. Everyone will have had a chance to wake up before their lessons start allowing them to get as good a start to the day as possible.

Counterpoint 

This will not be true equality. Some people naturally wake up earlier, yet many will still be feeling sleepy at 10:00. A school breakfast may have forced these students to be up even longer before their natural wake up time than would otherwise be the case. 

Title 
Schools are best places to ensure good nutrition
Point 

Education is universal from 5 or 6 to 16 years old in most countries, 58% of children worldwide attend secondary school,[1] with even poor countries providing education for all from 5 to 12 years old. As a result giving breakfast at school will mean that all children between these ages receive it.

[1] Unicef, ‘58: The percentage of children of secondary school age worldwide who attend secondary school is 58’, Unicef global databases, 2008, http://www.unicef.org/factoftheweek/index_50244.html

Counterpoint 

Schools already have enough pressures just to educate their students, they do not need additional pressure from having to ensure their nutrition as well. In the UK kitchen improvements cost £200 million and many local councils found they needed to take money from other budgets such as school maintainance budgets showing the increase in pressure on schools.[1]

[1] BBC News, ‘Q&A; Free school meals for infants’, 2 September 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28981684

Title 
A healthy breakfast improves students concentration
Point 

Children are in school to learn. To do this they need to concentrate. To be able to concentrate they need to have a balanced meal – one without too much sugar – that will ensure they are not hungry until lunchtime. A child who is hungry is not going to be concentrating on their studies. A study by the Indian National Institute of Nutrition has shown a regular breakfast to result in a 2% increase in test scores in addition to other health benefits.[1]

[1] Gajre, N.S., Fernandez, S., Balakrishna, N., and Vazir, S., ‘Breakfast Eating Habit and its Influence on Attention-concentration, Immediate Memory and School Achievement’, National Institute of Nutrition, 31 March 2008, http://www.indianpediatrics.net/oct2008/824.pdf

Counterpoint 

Exactly, the role of the school is to teach children, not to be providing food and using periods of time for this that could be used for lessons. 

Title 
Breakfast teaches about health
Point 

Children need to learn about how good nutrition keeps them healthy. Providing a school breakfast means that the meal can be an educational experience and have teaching alongside. This education will ensure that when these children grow up they continue to eat healthily with future benefits for the nation’s health.

Counterpoint 

There is no need for education about a healthy diet to be combined with free breakfasts for all. The teaching can be done separately just as effectively. Teaching at the same time as, or immediately before or after will simply mean students are concentrating on the food they have, not upon the lesson. Meal times are lively and social, not a good time for teaching.

Title 
Nutrition is the parents responsibility
Point 

Parents are responsible for their children, and this includes responsibility for their meals. The parent has had to provide meals up until the start of school. They know their own child’s preferences there is little reason for this to change. Splitting responsibility between parents and schools means the burden of responsibility will no longer be clearly don't placed.

Counterpoint 

The split in responsibility under this proposal is clear; school provides breakfast, parents other meals. This split ensures that even if the parent is shirking their responsibility the child will receive some nutrition. 

Title 
Government should focus on the most needy
Point 

A primary responsibility of the government is for reducing inequality and ensuring that everyone has a basic living standard. A basic living standard includes food. As a result providing breakfasts should be for those who are most in need of a helping hand from government. Those who are wealthier and can afford their own breakfast do not need this help so any such breakfast policy should be means tested to only apply to those who need it. This is the case with the United States School Breakfast Program.

Counterpoint 

Focusing on need requires that the need be defined and those in need identified. It runs the risk that some people will be missed. A child having a wealthy parent does not mean that they are getting a good healthy breakfast at the start of the day. That parent may never be home in the morning, may consider breakfast unimportant, or simply be neglecting their child.

Title 
A school breakfast for all is a greater cost on schools
Point 

Everything costs. Providing free school to all breakfasts will cost the government money for ingredients, cafeteria staff, administration, even possibly new facilities. In the USA the Breakfast Program costs $3.3 billion to provide free or reduced price breakfasts to 10.1 million students.[1] There is a limited total amount of money so the cost will mean there is something else the government will not be able to do. This proposal may mean, for example, that the government cannot afford to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes.

[1] Food and Nutrition Service, ‘The School Breakfast Program’, September 2013 http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SBPfactsheet.pdf

Counterpoint 

The upfront cost will be paid back. In the future there will be less health care costs. And there will be a more highly educated and skilled population which will mean more economic growth and tax for the government.

Title 
Can we be sure a school meal will be healthy?
Point 

Even if the schools provide breakfast can we be sure that it will be healthy, and even if it is will the students eat it? Without individual supervision that having breakfast with parents provides it is difficult to ensure that the children are eating what they should be rather than throwing away the bits they like. In the UK there has been a campaign against the poor quality of school meals.[1] In the US there has been concern at the amounts of fresh fruit and vegtables being thrown away from school means. One study by the University of Vermont found food waste increased 56%.[2]

[1] Evening Standard, ‘Unhealthy school meals are on the menu for over a million children’, 12 January 2013, http://www.standard.co.uk/news/education/unhealthy-school-meals-are-on-the-menu-for-over-a-million-children-8448986.html

[2] Welch, Ashley, ‘School lunch fruits and veggies often tossed in trash study finds’, CBSnews, 25 August 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/school-lunch-fruits-and-veggies-often-tossed-in-trash-study-finds/

Counterpoint 

If the school is providing unhealthy meals then guidelines can be tightened to ensure they improve. If the students are throwing away food then there can be greater supervision by teachers. A study by Harvard University has also shown that food waste, and the amount of healthy food eaten can be increased by having more time allocated to eating.[1]

[1] Wanjek, Christopher, ‘Are Healthy School Lunch Programs a Waste?’, Livescience, 7 October 2015, http://www.livescience.com/52408-healthy-school-lunch-food-waste.html

Bibliography 

BBC News, ‘Q&A; Free school meals for infants’, 2 September 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28981684

Food and Nutrition Service, ‘The School Breakfast Program’, September 2013 http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SBPfactsheet.pdf

Gajre, N.S., Fernandez, S., Balakrishna, N., and Vazir, S., ‘Breakfast Eating Habit and its Influence on Attention-concentration, Immediate Memory and School Achievement’, National Institute of Nutrition, 31 March 2008, http://www.indianpediatrics.net/oct2008/824.pdf

Osowski, Christine Persson, ‘The Swedish School Meal as a Public Meal’, Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, 80, http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:544062/FULLTEXT01 p.1.

Unicef, ‘58: The percentage of children of secondary school age worldwide who attend secondary school is 58’, Unicef global databases, 2008, http://www.unicef.org/factoftheweek/index_50244.html

Wanjek, Christopher, ‘Are Healthy School Lunch Programs a Waste?’, Livescience, 7 October 2015, http://www.livescience.com/52408-healthy-school-lunch-food-waste.html

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