BALTIMORE — The School Breakfast Program plays a key role in fueling children’s health and learning, yet too many low-income children in Maryland are missing out on this proven program, according to a new report by Maryland Hunger Solutions.

According to a news release, the Maryland School Breakfast Report found that in the 2019-2020 academic year, only 62.1 low-income students ate school breakfast for every 100 who participated in the National School Lunch program, a slight increase from 61.3 the previous year.

“Children can’t learn on an empty stomach,” said Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, in the release. “While there has been some improvement, we must redouble our efforts to ensure our children receive a healthy school breakfast so they may succeed in the classroom and beyond. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, school breakfast will play a significant role in combating childhood hunger.”

Only 12 out of 24 Maryland school districts met the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)’s goal of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch.

Kent County is the top-performing county, serving 102.9 low-income students for every 100. Other top-performing counties include Somerset, Garrett, Worcester and Caroline counties.

If all Maryland school districts met FRAC’s benchmark, an additional 22,862 children across the state would have started the school day with a healthy breakfast, the release states.

The Maryland School Breakfast report includes recommendations to increase school breakfast participation, such as:

• Participation in Maryland Meals for Achievement, a state-funded breakfast in the classroom program when eligible

• Offering school breakfast at no charge to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision at eligible schools, and;

• Implementing breakfast after the bell service models such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go,” and second chance breakfast.

The full School Breakfast Report and Breakfast Scorecards are available online.

Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health and wellbeing of children and families in Maryland.

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