FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202-986-2200 x3018
January 14, 2009
Low Rate of Participation in School Breakfast Means Missed Meals for Children and Missed Federal Dollars
Annual Report Charts Maryland’s Participation in School Breakfast Program
Baltimore, Md. – January 14, 2009 – During the 2007-2008 school year, 44 percent of eligible low-income students in Maryland participated in the national School Breakfast Program, according to the School Breakfast Scorecard. This was an increase from the prior year.
Nationally, 46 low-income children participated in school breakfast for every 100 that received lunch. Maryland’s performance was just below the national rate, which itself is far too low. The Scorecard is issued annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to measure national and state trends in school breakfast.
FRAC measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number of such children receiving school lunch. If Maryland was able to establish accessible breakfast programs so that participation reached 60 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 low-income children that ate lunch, 36,155 more low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast and the state would gain an additional $8 million in federal funding. Two states, New Mexico and South Carolina, demonstrate that this is an achievable goal. New Mexico reaches 63 percent of eligible low-income children, and South Carolina reaches 60 percent.
“At a time when more families are struggling and their hardships are increasing, it is imperative to expand the reach of the School Breakfast Program,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, an initiative of FRAC. “With only 44 low-income children eating breakfast for every 100 that eat lunch, Maryland is below the national average and below the FRAC target of reaching 60 percent. Maryland has room for improvement.”
In a separate analysis, released in October 2008, Maryland Hunger Solutions measured county participation in the School Breakfast Program. Participation varied widely from county to county, from a high of 71 percent in Somerset County to a low of 20 percent in Howard County. Counties that operated the Maryland Meals for Achievement Program, a state-funded program that supports programs that serve breakfast in the classroom, generally experienced higher rates of participation in the breakfast program.
Chin pointed out that this goal of expanding breakfast participation is reachable in Maryland even in difficult budget times, since nearly 100 percent of breakfast costs for low-income children are paid by the federal government.
In its national report, FRAC outlines a series of recommendations that the new Administration, Congress, states, and school districts can take to improve participation in the School Breakfast Program, including:
- Increasing federal funds for the program in the coming Child Nutrition Reauthorization to help expand participation, bolster outreach efforts, and improve nutrition quality;
- Enacting, or strengthening, state mandates that require schools, especially those with significant numbers of low-income students, to operate School Breakfast Programs, as well as providing state funding to support programs that offer breakfast free to all students, and provide breakfast in the classroom, a strategy more and more districts are using to get the educational day off to a good start; and
- Encouraging school districts to operate programs that offer breakfast free to all students (a strategy proven to boost participation) and to start in-classroom breakfast programs.
“This is a time of growing hunger and economic distress around the nation, but there are important opportunities to respond for both the short-term and the long-term. The coming Child Nutrition Reauthorization is such an opportunity, and Congress must increase funding for school meals, as well as boost investments in other child nutrition programs,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). “School breakfast improves children's learning and behavior, fosters healthy eating habits, and reduces hunger. It’s one of the best and most cost-effective investments we can make to ensure our nation’s future.”
Maryland Hunger Solutions joined FRAC in calling for Congress to increase funding for school meals and other child nutrition programs. All of the child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast Program, are set to be reauthorized this year as part of Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Congress is anticipated to start reviewing the programs as early as February.
Maryland Hunger Solutions also called on the state to reverse its funding cuts to the Maryland Meals for Achievement Program (MMFA), which was cut by 10 percent at the end of last year. Chin pointed out that the program is proven to boost participation; plus, for every $1 that the state invested in MMFA, the state received more than $3 in federal school breakfast reimbursements.
About the report:
The full report, School Breakfast Scorecard, is available at www.frac.org/pdf/breakfast08.pdf. To measure the reach of the School Breakfast Program, FRAC compares the number of schools and low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in the National School Lunch Program. FRAC also sets a participation goal of reaching 60 children with breakfast for every 100 receiving lunch as a way to gauge state progress and the costs of underparticipation in the program. Nationally, the School Breakfast Program has grown to include 8.5 million low-income children, an increase of four percent from the previous school year.
Maryland Hunger Solutions’ analysis of county participation rates for the 2007-2008 school year is available at www.mdhungersolutions.org/pdf/breakfastinmdcounties08.pdf
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Maryland Hunger Solutions, an anti-hunger and nutrition organization, is dedicated to ending hunger in Maryland by raising awareness of the problem among the public, media, and policymakers, and changing policy and practice to connect struggling families to the School Breakfast Program and other federal nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.