Baltimore Co. to start the day right Schools to begin serving breakfast BALTIMORE COUNTY

February 12, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Breakfast is on in Baltimore County schools.

Starting next month, the county joins the rest of the state in serving bagels, cereal, fruit, milk and other healthy day-starters to its students.

By the end of next school year, all 148 county schools will be serving breakfast, officials said.

For years, Baltimore County stood alone in not serving breakfast, even though studies showed that children who eat breakfast are healthier and perform better academically than those who do not.

Former superintendent of schools Dr. Robert Y. Dubel, who opposed the formal program because the county taught nutrition and also fed some children informally, was apparently the last hurdle to implementing the breakfast program.

Like the National School Lunch Program, the breakfast program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Little opposition was expected last night when the school board and the superintendent, Dr. Stuart Berger, heard the breakfast proposal.

David Patterson, acting director of the school system's food and nutrition service, said Arbutus middle and elementary schools and Relay Elementary School will begin serving breakfast March 1. Seventeen other schools will be added three or four at a time over the ensuing eight weeks.

Next fall, the program will be extended to elementary schools at the rate of 10 a week and phased in at middle and high schools.

Breakfast will cost $1 for elementary school students and $1.10 in middle and secondary schools. All students from low-income families eligible for free lunches will qualify for free breakfasts. And those eligible for reduced-priced lunches will qualify for breakfast at a reduced price of 30 cents.

One menu will offer orange juice, cold cereal, milk and graham crackers; another, fruit cocktail, cereal, milk and half a bagel with jelly and butter. There also will be specialty products, such as a "super-doughnut," that provide protein and carbohydrates.

The National School Breakfast Program, which subsidizes the meals, requires each breakfast to have one portion of milk, one fruit and either two breads, two meats or one bread and one meat.

Elementary schools will have only cold meals; secondary schools will have hot food as well.

The secondary schools now prepare all lunches and will soon also prepare breakfast. The food is transported to elementary "satellites." Food service workers normally start early in the secondary schools but not in elementaries. To accommodate the breakfast crowd, however, one employee in each elementary school will work about two hours more a day, said Mr. Patterson, who declined to put a price tag on the breakfast service.

The food service will be reimbursed for every full breakfast served. The federal program pays 94 1/2 cents for each free meal, 64 1/2 cents for each reduced-price meal and 18 3/4 cents for each paid break fast. In addition, Maryland pays school systems 14 cents for each free and reduced-price meal they serve.

"We hope to break even," Mr. Patterson said. "I have some carry-over money from last year to help me get through this year. After that, it will be a struggle."

Although it is usually thought that children from low-income families are the ones who come to school without breakfast, the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, which promotes school breakfast, said students from two-earner families and those with long bus rides often arrive at school with empty stomachs.

Previously, county schools offered a nutrition education program, and individual schools fed children they knew came to school hungry. These alternatives kept the schools in compliance with a state law requiring breakfast to be served in every elementary school where at least 15 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, said Shelly Terry, chief of food and transportation services for the state Department of Education.

Despite the availability and benefits of school breakfasts, they aren't a big hit around the state. Only about 7 percent -- or 48,800 of the state's 750,000 students -- eat school breakfast daily, Ms. Terry said. About 23 percent of the students eligible for the free and reduced-price meals are breakfast eaters.

"In the last two years, we have seen the participation rise," she said.

SCHEDULE

The following schools will begin serving breakfast this school year:

March 1: Arbutus Middle School, Arbutus and Relay elementary schools.

March 22: Loch Raven Middle School, Hillendale and Villa Cresta elementary schools.

March 29: Chesapeake High School, Deep Creek, Mars Estates and Middleborough elementary schools.

April 26: Dundalk High School, Eastwood special education center, Colgate and Grange elementary schools. Also, Kenwood High School, Deer Park Middle School, Hawthorne, Middlesex, Deer Park and Hernwood elementary schools.

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