Larger Counties Struggle to Meet Need, but Report Finds Success with Breakfast in the Classroom Programs
Baltimore, Md. – March 28, 2012 – More low-income children are starting the day with breakfast at school, finds a new analysis of school breakfast participation (pdf) by Maryland Hunger Solutions. During the 2010-2011 school year, 115,329 low-income students in Maryland started the day with a nutritious school breakfast—an increase of 8,989 students (8.5 percent growth) from the previous school year.
Still, participation in breakfast continues to lag behind lunch, with less than half of low-income children who eat school lunch also eating breakfast. The report found that only 46.8 low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program for every 100 students who participated in the School Lunch Program—an increase of 1.5 students per 100 from the previous school year, when the ratio was 45.3:100.
Participation varied widely from county to county, from a high of 96.5:100 in Somerset County to a low of 22:100 in Howard County. The five most populous jurisdictions (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County) that are home to a majority of the state’s low-income children continued to have rates far too low. Anne Arundel County’s participation rate barely exceeded the state average, reaching only 46.9 low-income students, and participation in the remaining four counties was below the state average. As a result, they are failing to reach tens of thousands of children and losing millions of federal dollars.
“Low participation in school breakfast means that far too many children aren’t getting the food they need to learn and thrive at school,” said Maryland Hunger Solutions Director Cathy Demeroto. “Still, we can see that many parts of the state managed to grow participation and reach more children, especially in areas that adopted widespread breakfast in the classroom programs and other alternative ways of serving breakfast. More must be done to support and encourage such innovative – and successful – programs.”
The analysis found that jurisdictions with widespread use of alternative delivery models (such as serving breakfast in the classroom) had the most success in increasing participation in school breakfast in Maryland. For example:
- Schools that participated in Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) – a state-funded program that supports breakfast in the classroom programs – generally had higher participation in the School Breakfast Program. In his FY2013 budget, the Governor included a funding increase for MMFA which would allow more schools to participate.
- The First Class Breakfast Initiative – a project of the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, funded by Kaiser Permanente and Share Our Strength, and staffed by Maryland Hunger Solutions – assisted 20 schools in seven jurisdictions in adopting alternative breakfast models. Many of the participating schools saw increases in participation, further underscoring the effectiveness of allowing children to eat breakfast in the classroom as part of the school day.
- Prince George’s County Public Schools received support from the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom project to implement breakfast in the classroom in 20 schools. The Partners project is a collaboration among the Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation, and is funded by the Walmart Foundation.
“It’s clear that these programs were critical to the state’s increase in school breakfast participation, and Maryland Hunger Solutions applauds Governor Martin O’Malley’s support of these programs,” said Demeroto.
Maryland Hunger Solutions sets a participation goal of reaching 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 who also eat lunch. Two jurisdictions, Somerset and Kent counties, surpassed this goal, and Dorchester County is close to reaching it. Increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program so that 70 low-income students eat breakfast for every 100 who eat school lunch would give Maryland an additional $14,982,957 in federal child nutrition funding to combat childhood hunger and improve nutrition, and would reach an additional 57,657 children.
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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. For more information, visit www.mdhungersolutions.org or follow us on Twitter.