More schools in Montgomery County are participating in free breakfast programs, a reality that may result in increased student achievement, advocates for school breakfast said.
"Expanding participation in breakfast is one of the best ways to ensure that Maryland’s children are healthy and ready to learn," said Cathy Demeroto, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. "Efforts to expand school breakfast in Maryland are making a difference, and we’re pleased to see that the state is moving in the right direction. Still, we can build on this progress and reach even more children, especially in urban areas."
During the 2011-2012 school year, 49.3 percent of low-income children attending Montgomery County Public Schools participated in the breakfast program. That's an increase of 16.6 percent over the previous year, according to Maryland Hunger Solutions data.
The organization's goal is to get all jurisdictions in the state to at least 70 percent participation among students who are eligible for free and reduced meals, the main measure of poverty in Maryland public schools.
If Montgomery were to achieve that metric, more than 7,000 additional students would be part of the breakfast program, making the school system eligible for nearly $2 million in additional federal aid reimbursement.
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist 5), along with leaders from Prince George's County, lobbied last December for more state aid to fund school nutrition programs.
"Providing nutritious meals is one of the most immediate and cost-effective ways to improve a child's health and performance in the classroom," said Ervin.