Larger Counties Underperforming With Breakfast Programs; Maryland Hunger Solutions Outlines Strategies To Increase Participation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jen Adach, email@example.com, (202) 986-2200 x3018
MARCH 30, 2011
Baltimore, MD – March 30, 2011 – School breakfast reduces hunger, boosts student test scores and improves nutrition, but more than half of Maryland’s low-income children are missing out on these benefits. A new analysis of school breakfast participation by Maryland Hunger Solutions finds that only 45.6 low-income children in Maryland ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch during the 2009-2010 school year. This was a slight decrease from the previous school year, when the ratio was 45.7:100. It is also below the national average of 47.2:100.
County participation in school breakfast varied widely, ranging from a high of 84.1 low-income students in Somerset County for every 100 in school lunch to a low ratio of 20.6:100 in Howard County. Some of the better performing counties were the smaller ones in the state, while many of the counties with larger populations underperformed in reaching low-income children with breakfast.
Key findings include:
- Ten counties provided breakfast to at least 50 low-income children eating breakfast for every 100 eating lunch each day, with three counties serving three out of every four low-income children eating lunch: Somerset County (84.1), Kent County (76.2), and Washington County (74.5).
- The counties with the largest populations, however – Baltimore, Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s – all had ratios below the state average, leaving tens of thousands of children out of the program and losing millions of federal dollars.
- Four counties — Calvert, Carroll, Charles, and Howard — served fewer than 40:100, with Howard County only reaching 20.6:100.
- The top four counties for breakfast participation also had a higher percentage of schools participating in Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA), a successful state program that supports breakfast in the classroom initiatives.
“Our analysis looked at breakfast participation across Maryland – in every county – and found that some counties are doing very well, but many need to do a lot more to reach children in need. Put in the terms that matter, these numbers mean that far too many children aren’t getting the food they need to learn and thrive at school,” said Cathy Demeroto, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Governor O’Malley has made increasing participation in school breakfast a priority for the state, and a key part of his goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. We applaud this effort, and are committed to working with his office to achieve this goal.”
Strategies to Improve Participation
Getting breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom is one strategy proven to increase participation. 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. For the 2009-2010 school year, MMFA funding, however, only reached 193 of the 682 public schools eligible to participate in the program under state rules.
“It’s clear that breakfast in the classroom works,” said Demeroto. “Participation soars when breakfast is moved out of the cafeteria and becomes part of the scheduled school day. We urge the state to preserve and expand funding for this very important program.”
Maryland Hunger Solutions is supporting the new Walmart Breakfast in the Classroom initiative to start up such programs in a number of schools in Prince George’s County. Maryland Hunger Solutions is also a lead organizer in the First Class Breakfast initiative, which aims to help 21 schools in six counties and Baltimore City start up alternative breakfast programs, including breakfast in the classroom. The Governor will be hosting a breakfast at the State House today for the principals, food service directors, and superintendents of those 21 schools, along with Maryland Hunger Solutions, Share Our Strength, and other members of the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger.
“Breakfast improves health and behavior, fights hunger, and boosts test scores. The more children who participate in school breakfast, the better off students and schools will be,” said Demeroto.
Low participation means fewer children are eating breakfast – and that the state is missing out on federal money. If Maryland served 70 children school breakfast for every 100 eating school lunch during the 2009-2010 school year (a target that three counties already meet), more than 56,000 additional children would have received a healthy school breakfast every day, and Maryland would have received an additional $14.3 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 $10 million by falling short of this goal. It also meant that 40,000 low-income children missed out on breakfast in those five places alone.
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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.