New Analysis Details County-By-County Participation In The School Breakfast Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jen Adach, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 986-2200 x3018
Kimberley Chin, Maryland Hunger Solutions, email@example.com, (410) 528-0021
Baltimore, MD – February 25, 2010 – Research has repeatedly shown that eating breakfast at school boosts children’s health and educational achievement, but school breakfast misses more than half of low-income schoolchildren in Maryland. A new analysis of participation by Maryland Hunger Solutions finds that only 46 low-income children in Maryland ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch during the 2008-2009 school year.
Participation varied widely from county to county, ranging from a high of 75.1 percent in Somerset County to a low of 19.1 percent in Howard County. Some of the largest counties in the state (e.g., Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s) ranked below even the state average. In the bottom four counties – Calvert, Charles, Carroll, and Howard – fewer than 40 eligible low-income children ate breakfast for every 100 eating lunch.
“Breakfast helps children learn, and it promotes good health,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Our analysis looks at breakfast participation across Maryland – in every county – and found that some counties are doing very well but far too many need to do a lot more in reaching hungry children with this essential daily boost. Whether it is attendance, student behavior, learning, test scores or health, school breakfast is a fulcrum for raising them and reaching our state’s education, nutrition, and health goals.”
While some of the lagging counties are affluent (and Maryland is home to some of the wealthiest counties in America), Chin also pointed out that their affluence does not explain low participation rates among low-income students. This report measures their ability to ensure that low-income children start the day with a healthy morning meal and finds they are failing to do so.
Getting breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom is one strategy proven to boost participation. The analysis found that counties with a greater percentage of schools participating in Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA), a successful state program that supports breakfast in the classroom initiatives, had higher participation rates in school breakfast. In fact, the top four counties for breakfast participation also had the greatest proportion of schools participating in MMFA.
Unfortunately, funding for MMFA has suffered cuts. For the 2008-2009 year, the program was funded at $3.1 million dollars – enough funding to cover just one-third of eligible schools in the state. The 2009-2010 school year budget for MMFA, at $2.8 million, reflected the cuts made in the state budget for MMFA during the previous school year.
“Classroom breakfast works. More children start the day with a healthy morning meal when it is served after the school bell,” said Chin. “ At the very least, Maryland should restore funding for the MMFA. But, even without this initiative, many schools still can – and should – use federal school breakfast funds to implement programs that are proven to boost participation. They can serve breakfast in the classroom at the start of the school day or offer breakfast from ‘grab and go’ carts in the hallways.”
In its report, Maryland Hunger Solutions noted that a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that includes funding to help schools start up and expand classroom breakfast programs would help Maryland’s children. “The upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization is an opportunity for Congress to invest in the child nutrition programs and help more low-income children access healthy meals. If we want more children to eat school breakfast, Congress must support efforts to serve breakfast in the classroom,” said Chin.
Low participation hurts children, and it also hurts Maryland’s schools. Missed meals add up to millions of dollars in federal funding going unclaimed by Maryland every year. In the 2008-2009 school year, if 70 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch, more than 53,000 additional children would have received a healthy school breakfast every day, and Maryland would have received an additional $11.7 million in federal child nutrition funding.
Most of this money was lost by counties with larger populations. Five counties around the state – Prince George’s, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel – together lost $8.8 million.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions is the lead research, public education, and advocacy group in Maryland, dedicated to using public programs to end hunger in Maryland. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.