Campaign Pushes for Innovative Program That Makes Breakfast Part of the School Day for High-Need Schools
BALTIMORE, Nov. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Share Our Strength, the Maryland State Education Association, Maryland Hunger Solutions, Advocates for Children and Youth, Sodexo Foundation and other groups today kicked off Breakfast For Success, a statewide campaign aimed at increasing funding by $1.8 million for Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA), an innovative state-funded program that makes breakfast a part of the school day for Maryland kids.
"Just over half of Maryland students who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch are participating in the School Breakfast Program," said Anne Sheridan, Director of Share Our Strength's Maryland No Kid Hungry campaign. "Maryland Meals for Achievement allows high-need schools to offer free, in-classroom breakfast which ensures that all students are starting the day ready to learn."
Three in five Maryland teachers regularly see kids come to the classroom hungry, according to a recent survey by Share Our Strength. The same study showed that nine in 10 teachers also say that breakfast is key to academic success. They credit breakfast with increased concentration (95%), better academic performance (89%) and better behavior in the classroom (73%).
It is estimated that the proposed $1.8 million increase in funding would benefit more than 50,000 children in high-need schools across the state. "What we know is that being hungry makes it harder to learn," said Betty Weller, President of the Maryland State Education Association. "Maryland Meals for Achievement schools are in areas with a significant concentration of low-income children, so we know the need is high. Our leaders need to do everything they can to make sure our students start the day ready to learn, especially in schools where children are at a higher risk of hunger."
Many students do not participate in the School Breakfast Program due to tight morning scheduling, cafeteria capacity, and fear of being stigmatized. MMFA reduces these barriers by making breakfast free for all students in the classrooms of select, high-need schools.
Of the 813 schools that are eligible for MMFA, only 271 schools participate in the program due to a lack of funding in the state's budget. Because school breakfasts for low-income children are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maryland Hunger Solutions estimates that low participation also means that the state missed out on nearly $15 million in federal reimbursements during the 2010-2011 school year.
"The Maryland Meals for Achievement program not only helps the children who are coming to school hungry," said Principal Bill Goodman of Meade Middle School in Anne Arundel County. "It fosters a sense of community in the school with the students starting the day off in a safe and nurturing environment. We are also seeing fewer tardies and nurse visits in the morning."
A study by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital showed that schools that participate in MMFA saw a 5 percent increase in Maryland School Performance Assessment Program Composite Index scores, a 36 percent decrease in suspension length and a breakfast participation rate of 72% (versus a statewide average at the time of 11%).
"Studies show that increasing access to school breakfast is crucial to fighting childhood hunger and improving test scores in Maryland," said Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. "Governor O'Malley's strong leadership on this issue has been key to making sure more Maryland kids are getting the food they need. Because of its many long-term benefits to our most vulnerable children, MMFA is a smart investment for the state of Maryland."
More than 25 partners have signed on in support of MMFA. The statewide Breakfast For Success campaign will include paid advertising, an aggressive online advocacy presence, grassroots outreach and events across Maryland.
Maryland residents can help support an increase in MMFA funding by going to www.BreakfastForSuccess.org to send a letter to Governor O'Malley and State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery, watch a video on school breakfast, and share an infographic on the facts about school breakfast and MMFA.
Supporters of Maryland Meals for Achievement include:
Share Our Strength
Maryland State Education Association
Maryland Hunger Solutions
Advocates for Children and Youth
United Way of Central Maryland
Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches
Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute
Contact: Ariane Holm | O: 202-649-4350 | C: 571-213-6465 | firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Share Our Strength