Too Many Students in Maryland Miss Out on the Benefits of School Breakfast

Media Contact:
Colleen Barton Sutton

Too Many Students in Maryland Miss Out on the  
Benefits of School Breakfast
Somerset County Gets an A+ in Participation  

BALTIMORE, June 18, 2024 — Fewer students across Maryland are accessing school breakfast, according to the Maryland School Breakfast Report released today by Maryland Hunger Solutions. The report measures the reach of school breakfast in the 2022–2023 school year from September through May based on a variety of metrics, and examines the impact of select trends and policies on program participation.  

“The end of pandemic-era interventions is having a negative impact on children’s health and learning,” said LaMonika Jones, interim director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “We need to build on the lessons learned during that unprecedented time and ensure that every child has access to the nutrition they need to thrive.” 

At the onset of the pandemic, nationwide waivers allowed schools to serve meals at no charge to all students, no matter their household income. The end of the waivers in June 2022 forced schools to revert to the traditional tiered system where students qualify for free, reduced-price, or paid meals, based on their household income. This reversion reintroduced barriers to meal participation and led to a noticeable decline in the number of school breakfasts and lunches served. Additionally, the end of pandemic-era supports have heightened the impact of lasting operational challenges for school nutrition departments, such as inflated food prices, staffing challenges, and inadequate federal reimbursement rates. 

Key Findings: 

  • On an average day during the 2022–2023 school year, just over 210,000 children received breakfast and 387,000 children received lunch, a decrease of nearly 39,000 (15.8 percent) in breakfast and 65,000 (14.3 percent) in lunch compared to the 2020–2021 school year. 
  • Throughout the 2022–2023 school year, over 34 million breakfasts were served across Maryland, a reduction of 6.6 million meals (16.3 percent) from the previous year. 
  • Participation in school meals during 2022–2023 was slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels, with over 38,000 fewer children participating in breakfast and almost 31,000 fewer in lunch compared to the 2018–2019 school year. 
  • The ratio of students receiving breakfast compared to lunch decreased from 55:100 in the 2021–2022 school year to 54:100 in the 2022–2023 school year. 

Low participation in school breakfast causes students to miss out on the educational and health benefits associated with eating school breakfast. This missed opportunity was especially apparent during the 2022–2023 school year as participation decreased across the board.  

Out of the 24 public school districts in Maryland, only eight school districts reached the Food Research & Action Center’s goal of reaching 70 children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch. Somerset County was the top-performing school district in terms of school breakfast participation, reaching 104.6 students with school breakfast for every 100 who participated in school lunch, meaning more students participated in school breakfast than school lunch. The other seven school districts that met the national benchmark were Kent County, Caroline County, Talbot County, Garret County, Worcester County, Dorchester County, and Cecil County. 

Maryland Hunger Solutions continues to advocate for Healthy School Meals for All and notes that support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Maryland State Department of Education, and policymakers, will be crucial.

“Healthy School Meals for All alongside best practices such as innovative breakfast models, longer lunch periods, and high-quality meals, will be essential to regain participation losses from the 2022–2023 school year,” added Jones. “Now is the time to make important investments in the school meal programs to better support school meal operations and the students and families who rely on this important nutrition safety net.” 

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About Maryland Hunger Solutions
Maryland Hunger Solutions , an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center, works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of Maryland residents. 

About the Food Research & Action Center
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit and follow us on X and on Facebook.