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Free CPS breakfast debate: Fight against hunger or road to obesity?

Breakfast items such as Rice Krispies Treats are tempting kids who have already eaten breakfast esecond breakfast classroom parents say.

Breakfast items such as Rice Krispies Treats are tempting kids who have already eaten breakfast to eat a second breakfast in the classroom, parents say.

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Updated: July 3, 2011 1:08PM

Chicago’s “Breakfast in the Classroom” program is serving “dessert” for breakfast, tempting kids who have already eaten at home with “junk food” and attracting mice, parents charged Wednesday.

The offerings are so sugar-laden and chocolate-coated, said South Loop School parent Meredith Crowley, that “My daughter asked, ‘Why are they serving dessert for breakfast?’”

“Aren’t the rates of obesity rising fast enough?” Crowley asked Chicago School Board members.

On the other side of the battle over breakfast, school volunteer Myra Jordan presented 5,000 signatures supporting the systemwide program to devote the first 10 minutes of class to the distribution and ingestion of free breakfasts to those who want them, regardless of income.

However, parents at a variety of schools report that kids who have already eaten breakfast at home are “succumbing to the lure of colorful bags and sugar’’ and eating a second breakfast at school — sometimes followed closely by lunch, said Hawthorne Magnet parent Maria Mikel.

At one school, Mikel said, “Mice have started showing up to feast at the crumbs.”

One parent didn’t even know her child was eating breakfast until the school called to say the child had an allergic reaction to a Breakfast in the Classroom meal, Mikel said. Parents have been told they cannot tell the teacher not to feed their child, Mikel said.

Opponents urged that parents be allowed to fill out opt-out forms that would prevent their children from taking breakfast.

Officials said the program might be experiencing some “implementation wrinkles’’ but outgoing Board President Mary Richardson-Lowry said Chicago was the largest district in the country to fight “hunger as a barrier to education.’’

“Kids who take breakfast for the sugar are not hungry,’’ said Crowley.

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