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BALTIMORE, October 28, 2020 – The School Breakfast Program plays a key role in ensuring children start the day with the nutrition they need to learn – yet too many low-income children in Maryland are missing out on this proven program, according to a new report released today by Maryland Hunger Solutions.
“We know that, due to COVID-19, school systems are using delivery models that don’t compare to in-person learning models. We also know that COVID-19 has led to dramatically increasing childhood hunger in the state and across the country, causing schools to redouble their efforts now, and when they re-open to reach more low-income children with school breakfast,” said Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.
The Creating Healthier Students & Better Learners with the School Breakfast Program: Maryland School Breakfast Report finds that in the 2018-2019 school year, only 61.8 low-income students ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch in Maryland.
Out of the 24 public districts, only 12 met the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)’s goal of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 1oo participating in school lunch.
To reach more children with school breakfast, the report recommends that:
- all schools implement a breakfast after the bell service model, such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go,” or second chance breakfast;
- eligible districts and schools provide free meals to all students by adopting community eligibility; and
- eligible schools apply for Maryland Meals for Achievement funding to implement breakfast in the classroom at no charge.
The Community Eligibility Provision, also known as CEP, allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer nutritious meals to all students at no charge. Community eligibility gives school districts an important opportunity to meet their students’ nutritional needs, particularly as millions of families are being impacted by the economic crisis being driven by COVID-19.
In the meantime, with schools shuttered across the state, a new innovative program known as Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) is providing families whose children have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals with an electronic benefit card to purchase food at grocery stores.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must issue guidance on P-EBT quickly that allows Maryland to extend its program through the school year with the flexibilities and support needed to reach remote-learning students who are missing out on school meals, as well as young children.
Download the full report.
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland.