FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jen Adach, email@example.com, (202) 986-2200 x3018
January 13, 2011
Breakfast Not on the Table for Many Low-Income Children in Maryland
Getting More Children to Start the Day with Breakfast Key to Achieving State Goal of Ending Childhood Hunger by 2015
Baltimore, Md. – January 13, 2011 – During the 2009-2010 school year, more than 118,000 low-income children in Maryland participated in the national School Breakfast Program, according to a new national report released today. While the number of children receiving school breakfast increased from the previous year, many still are missing out. For every 100 low-income Maryland children that ate school lunch, only 45 also ate school breakfast.
The School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf), released annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program nationally and by state, evaluating state performance by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number of such children receiving school lunch. The best performing states reached about 60 per 100, and the national average was 47 low-income children participating in school breakfast for every 100 that received lunch.
Low participation means missed meals and opportunities for children and missed dollars for states. If participation in Maryland rose to 60 low-income children eating federally-funded school breakfast for every 100 low-income children eating lunch, more than 37,000 low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast and the state would gain an additional $9 million in federal funding. Two states, New Mexico and South Carolina, already exceed this goal and demonstrate that this is eminently achievable.
A separate analysis by FRAC, School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities (pdf) looked at participation in 29 large urban school districts, including Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. For every 100 children that received school lunch, Baltimore City reached nearly 45 low-income children with breakfast and Prince George’s County reached 43 low-income children.
In the city analysis, FRAC sets a higher goal of 70 percent for urban school districts to achieve, because of economies of scale and geographic clustering make reaching the higher goal possible. If Baltimore City school district had reached that goal, it would have served an additional 11,139 low-income children and gained an additional $2.7 million in federal child nutrition funding. Prince George’s County would have served an additional 14,061 low-income children and gained an additional $3.5 million in federal child nutrition funding.
Higher rates of school breakfast participation were achieved by school districts that offered breakfast free to all students (also known as universal breakfast), offered breakfast in the classroom at the start of the school day rather than in the cafeteria, or offered bagged “grab and go” breakfasts from carts in the hallway. In fact, of the top ten school districts profiled in the report, all provide universal free breakfast throughout their district, and all but two have large-scale in-classroom breakfast programs.
“Clearly, breakfast in the classroom is a strategy that works, and we urge school districts across Maryland to start looking at ways to get breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the hands of children,” said Cathy Demeroto, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “There are many opportunities that exist right now to build stronger breakfast programs and accelerate participation, and states and school districts should be taking advantage of them.”
Demeroto urged states and school districts to look at ways to make it easier for children to apply for school meals, such as conducting school meal application campaigns at the start of the school year and frequent outreach throughout the school year. “If they haven’t already, schools and state child nutrition agencies should start to implement some of the important changes that were included in the new Child Nutrition Reauthorization, especially provisions that make it easier for children to apply for meals,” she said.
Maryland Hunger Solutions also called on the state to preserve funding to the Maryland Meals for Achievement Program (MMFA). MMFA is a state-funded program that provides breakfast free to all students in the classroom. Demeroto pointed out that the program is proven to boost participation in the breakfast program; plus, for every $1 that the state invests in MMFA, the state receives more than $3 in federal school breakfast reimbursements. In the 2009-2010 school year, the state provided $2.9 million for the program, which was enough to fund only a quarter of the 735 schools that were eligible for the program to participate.
“Maryland Meals for Achievement improves school breakfast participation, and the state should preserve funding for the program,” said Demeroto. “Breakfast is proven to boost test scores, improve attendance and participation, and help children start their day ready to learn. Maryland can’t afford to cut this program.”
Demeroto applauded today’s announcement of a new initiative, known as Breakfast in the Classroom and funded by the Walmart Foundation, that would support breakfast in the classroom programs in Prince George’s County and four other cities (Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, and Orlando). Maryland Hunger Solutions is delighted to be a partner in this effort. Funding will assist schools with start-up and related costs; the project aims to increase breakfast consumption among schoolchildren and spark the academic and nutritional gains associated with the morning meal.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for schools in Prince George’s County to improve participation in the breakfast program,” said Demeroto. “Getting many more children to start the day with a healthy morning meal is a key step toward meeting our goal of ending childhood hunger in the state by 2015, and will boost learning and health in the county.”
About the reports:
For School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities, FRAC surveyed 29 large urban school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies during the school year. FRAC measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that receive free and reduced-price school lunch. The School Breakfast Scorecard contains national and state data for breakfast participation during the 2009-2010 school year. Both reports are available at www.frac.org.
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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.