State officials announced several partnerships and federal initiatives yesterday aimed at ending childhood hunger in Maryland in the next five years, programs that would serve more than 150,000 children living below the poverty line.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, state school officials and representatives from Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit organization, said at a news conference that they were looking to enroll 65,000 students in the School Lunch and School Breakfast Program and increase participation in the federal food stamp program by 15 percent.
About 14 percent of school-age children in Maryland receive breakfast. Officials want to increase that participation rate by 9 percentage points next year.
"It's a lot easier to learn if you have a good breakfast, a good lunch, and if your stomach is not growling or pestering you," O'Malley said.
Under the initiative, 73 new licensed facilities participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program would be added statewide, providing daily meals and snacks. O'Malley said he wants to increase the number of students participating in the Summer Meals program by 49,000 children.
Prentiss Moore II, principal of Highlandtown Elementary-Middle School, where the news conference was held, said he has witnessed the benefits of a healthy breakfast.
Ninety percent of students at Highlandtown receive free or reduced-price meals, and the school is in the third year of a breakfast program that has an 80 percent participation rate. Moore said those numbers have helped his students meet state exam requirements.
"If you keep a child nourished, then the child is going to go into a classroom and be effective," Moore said. "Test scores are an example of that," he said, noting that the school has made so-called adequate yearly progress goals that are part of the federal No Child Left Behind program.