October 30, 2008
New Analysis Details County-by-County Participation in the School Breakfast Program in Maryland
Baltimore, MD – October 30, 2008 – Only 43.7 eligible low-income children across Maryland participated in school breakfast for every 100 who participated in school lunch during the 2007-2008 school year, according to a new analysis by Maryland Hunger Solutions. By county, the results varied widely. Howard County had just 20.39 percent of eligible children participating in school breakfast, while 70.88 percent in Somerset County participated.
“Breakfast helps children learn, and it promotes good health,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Our analysis looks at breakfast participation across Maryland – in every county – and found that some counties are doing very well but some need to do a lot more in reaching hungry children. As more Marylanders struggle with rising food costs and a weakened economy, a healthy morning meal may be out of reach for many families to provide. Schools – and the state – must make breakfast a priority and reach as many eligible children as they can.”
The full analysis is available online at: www.mdhungersolutions.org/pdf/breakfastinmdcounties08.pdf.
Low participation in the School Breakfast Program has real consequences, both for the children who are not receiving a healthy meal and for education budgets. In 2007-2008, Maryland schools lost $1.35 every day in federal funding for every child who would have received a free breakfast and $1.05 for every child who would have received a reduced-price breakfast, but was not served.
In the 2007-2008 school year, if Maryland reached a reasonable target of 70 children eating breakfast for every 100 eating lunch, almost 55,000 more children would have received a healthy school breakfast every day, and Maryland would have received an additional $11.8 million in federal child nutrition funding.
Most of this money was lost by the counties with larger populations. Five areas around the state – Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County – together lost more than $9 million.
The analysis also looked at the impact of Maryland Meals for Achievement, which is a very successful state program that supports breakfast in the classroom initiatives. Counties with smaller populations had a greater percentage of schools participating in Maryland Meals for Achievement and had higher participation rates in school breakfast as a result.
Because of the state’s budget deficit, the Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved a 10 percent cut to the MMFA program for the 2008-2009 school year.
“Maryland Meals for Achievement improves school breakfast participation, and the state should continue to invest in the program,” said Chin. “But, even without this initiative, many schools can still use federal School Breakfast Program funds to implement programs that are proven to boost participation. They can serve breakfast in the classroom at the start of the school day or offer breakfast from ‘grab and go’ carts in the hallways.”
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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.