A labor-management “think tank”
New York City schools began to roll out a universal breakfast in the classroom program in the 2015-16 school year. Several logistical challenges emerged. For example, school personnel were concerned about eliminating hot breakfast service. Several of the city’s unions quickly realized the need to connect with frustrated members. The United Federation of Teachers developed an online assistance form that enables members to request help and intervention for school-level issues. Additionally, the union website lists a health and safety staff contact who is assigned to directly field concerns.
The unions also brought their concerns to the deputy chancellor, who convened a “think tank” with representatives of food service staff, custodians, school aides, teachers, paraprofessionals, principals and other administrators. Over the last year, the group has met to review feedback from different stakeholders and troubleshoot together. One UFT vice president reports that strengths of the group include “being able to voice concerns in a timely fashion” and “having the group think through it at once.” To date, the group has:
- Created a hybrid service model that blends cafeteria service for students arriving early and breakfast in the classroom for those who arrive close to the start of class;
- Coordinated adult assistance for opening prepackaged items for young students to limit spills;
- Developed a food service team to verify that any school interested in serving hot breakfast has appropriate equipment; and
- Established a protocol to conduct school-based investigations of challenges within 24 hours of a report being generated, such as through the UFT’s online form.
The New York City Department of Education also created a 33-page guide on incorporating nutrition education into elementary school lessons in the morning and developed a PowerPoint to guide training sessions.