HISD's Anna Eastman: You Say Banana, I Say Waste

Right in the middle of a lovely quick review of how many more breakfasts the Houston ISD is serving in its ever-expanding First Class Breakfast program, trustee Anna Eastman brought up the subject of waste at Monday's board agenda review.

That perennial bugaboo - one that has plagued previous highly touted and well-meaning efforts to get a breakfast in every kid's belly in HISD - has alas never gone away. It seems you can hand out juice and milk and kolaches by the handful, but you can't make a kid eat a banana.

Eastman told of the disheartening sight of walking into a classroom to see a pile of 30 untouched bananas - rejected by the elementary students. And actually it's not just bananas they're tossing in the trash.

She asked if there couldn't be more choice, that instead of handing every kid a complete meal, that they would be allowed to pick the parts of the breakfast they were willing to eat. "So kids could choose instead of a lot of that ending up in the trash," she said.

HISD Chief Operating Officer Leo Bobidilla pointed out that they "have a limited amount of time to be able to serve all our students." One kid after another making up his or her mind for breakfast - can we spell boondoggle?

Because of a myriad of health laws at the city and state level, the district so far has been unable to repurpose the food to the hungry and poor. So it's just a big old pile of waste there.

And if they'e throwing away the one kind of fruit they're allowed, apparently the kids aren't thinking about other concerns raised repeatedly this past year about the high calorie count of some of these meals.

Bobidilla said: "We are looking at the issue of waste." This is an issue that's been examined to death in the district, but that apparently still involves a lot more work than Eastman's walk into the classrooms.

How many months this will take is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, here's a tip for all those starving folks out there: check out the dumpsters behind the HISD schools.

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