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BALTIMORE – February 16, 2016 – More low-income children in Maryland are starting the day with a healthy morning meal at school, according to a new national report released today, further demonstrating the positive impact of the community eligibility provision (CEP). In school year 2014 – 2015, Maryland rose from 9th to 4th in the nation in connecting low-income children to the health and educational benefits of school breakfast.
The School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf), a report released annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), found that Maryland served 64 low-income children breakfast for every 100 that received lunch during the 2014-2015 school year, an impressive increase of 10.5 percent from the 2013 – 2014 school year, making Maryland fourth out of all 50 states for breakfast participation.
This success can be attributed to the Maryland Meals for Achievement Act (MMFA), the inclusion of alternative serving models, such as breakfast in the classroom and breakfast after the bell, and the Community Eligibility Provision.
Community Eligibility allows high-poverty schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students without the need for individual applications, and has greatly expanded breakfast participation in 227 participating schools throughout the state.
“Community Eligibility is a proven way for states and schools to create hunger free environments that promote student health and learning,” said Michael J. Wilson, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Maryland Hunger Solutions led the effort to get CEP legislation passed in the General Assembly, and as a result more than 97,000 students receive free breakfast every day. Maryland has risen to number four, but – but we’re not satisfied. Maryland can get to number one.”
Nationally, FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard finds that on an average school day in 2014-2015, nearly 12 million low-income children participated in school breakfast, an increase of 475,000 from the previous year. The 2014 – 2015 school year saw 54 low-income students participate in the School Breakfast Program for every 100 in the National School Lunch Program, an increase from 53 during the 2013 – 2014 school year.
Although Maryland improved its ranking from 9th to 4th out of all 50 states in school breakfast participation and has more students eating school breakfast, there is still room for improvement. There are still eligible students who are not participating in the School Breakfast Program. Increasing participation to reach 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 that eat lunch would lead to an additional 17,000 low-income Maryland children eating breakfast each day, and more than $4 million in additional federal child nutrition funding.
Expanding participation in school breakfast boosts learning and test scores, improves attendance and student behavior, and improves overall student health. The FRAC report notes that more schools are embracing proven strategies designed to increase participation, like offering breakfast in the classroom after the start of the school day.
Maryland Hunger Solutions is working with schools throughout the states to increase awareness about school breakfast through its annual Hear The Crunch event on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Hear the Crunch is a state-wide event in which thousands of Marylanders bite into an apple simultaneously to support access to healthy school breakfast.
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 (www.frac.org). To learn more about Maryland Hunger Solutions, click here.