As a result of the new initiative, three schools in Anne Arundel County—, l and —were selected to start new, alternative breakfast programs.
Children cannot learn when they are hungry.
That was the message delivered by Rosemary King Johnston, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children, to a roomful of educators, principals, food service directors and parent leaders in the Governor’s Reception room of the State House Wednesday.
Johnston and Gov. Martin O’Malley were there to announce the kickoff of the state’s First Class Breakfast Initiative, which aims to expand and improve on school breakfast programs.
Old Mill Middle School North and Rippling Woods will begin the alternative feeding delivery method, where students will pay full, free or reduced fare, said said Jodi Risse, supervisor of food and nutrition services for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS). As part of the program, students will be able to pick up their food on the way to class and eat it while doing morning work and listening to morning announcments.
Meade Middle was selected for the Maryland Meals for Achievement program where all students will get free breakfast and they will be able to eat in the classrooms alongside their teachers, said Risse.
“As a registered dietician we definitely see the difference breakfast makes. A child can’t learn [without breakfast],” Risse said.
Risse said about nine AACPS schools currently participate in the alternative feeding delivery and about 20 are Maryland Meals for Achievement schools.
She said school officials in Anne Arundel county have noticed that the alternative methods are increasing breakfast.
“It’s breaking down that stigma and the numbers are going up and it’s really part of the culture,” she said.
Sean McElhaney, principal of Old Mill Middle School North, said the school will start it’s new program this Monday.
During a question and answer session with O’Malley, McElhaney shared a compelling story. He said while the school was giving students practice Maryland School Assesment tests, he participated in administering and grading the tests. On the first test he picked up to grade, he said he noticed the student had written “Can’t think. Don’t Care.’”
When he called the student to the office to ask him why he wrote that, the student told him he was just too hungry, McElhaney said. Coincidentally he said that afternoon he had the meeting set up to talk about the new breakfast program.
“It just came at very good timing,” McElhaney said. He said that of his 900 students, about 400 of them walk to school. He added that even when school is delayed due to snow, the children are waiting outside at the regular time waiting for breakfast.
The announcement came as part of thePartnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, an effort launched in 2008 with a goal of eradicating childhood hunger in the state by 2015.
As part of the new Breakfast First Initiative, 21 schools in the state will get breakfast makeovers.
While all schools in the state are required to serve breakfast, the new alternative breakfast programs that will soon be implemented in these schools will introduce more options and give kids the opportunity to grab food on their way to class in the mornings.
Johnston said these alternative options will overcome obstacles that currently prevent students from eating breakfast like school buses being late or older students being embarrassed about having to go to the cafeteria to eat breakfast for fear of being associated with being poor.
“We want these children to not have to struggle with whether they should or should not eat. If it’s there, we want them to have it,” she said.
Accomplishing this task will likely result in students being more alert during the school day.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that test scores will go up the better we are at reaching children when it comes to eradicating childhood hunger,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley.
O’Malley said during these difficult financial times, it’s important to focus on the children, who are the future of the state.
“The most important thing that we do have for our shared future is the next generation,” O’Malley said.
“There are the dollars to support the eradication of childhood hunger in every single state in the union. And yet Marland is the first state...and it came in the middle of a recession...to declare that we are going to do this and we’re going to do it by 2015,” he said.
Schools selected for the programs can receive up to $7,500 in grants to help carry them out. And educators attending the meeting also received an information packet to help them learn more about the effort.
O’Malley said the 21 schools are just a start, adding that they hope to make this effort in other Maryland schools soon.
Statistics/Ways You Can Help
According to data from Maryland Hunger Solutions that was presented Wednesday, of the 100 students who receive free or reduced-price lunch in Maryland, only 45.6 of them receive school breakfast.
Anne Sheridan, Maryland state director of the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry Campaign, one of the partnering organizations, said 400 Maryland students were surveyed as part of this effort.
“They understand the link between eating breakfast and performing well," Sheridan said. "They get it. But we just aren’t making it easy for them.”
To learn more about the Maryland First Class Breakfast Initiative, its partners and sponsors, visit this website.