MR. CARDIN. Mr. President, on this day, I hope Marylanders across our State can “Hear the Maryland Crunch!” of students eating a healthy school breakfast. Thanks to the leadership of Maryland Hunger Solutions, the “Hear the Maryland Crunch!” campaign offers all Marylanders the opportunity to become more aware of the daily struggle of our food insecure children and stand together in support of school breakfast. I wish to continue to highlight this critical issue facing our children.
Maryland has the highest median income in the nation; yet even in Maryland, one in five children is food insecure. These children lack consistent access to adequate food resources, yet I am happy to announce we are making strides to ensure our children are fed and ready to learn. Approximately 262,000 students in Maryland participate in the 100 percent federally funded National School Lunch program and receive either free or reduce price lunches. These students know that when they come to school, they are able to receive a nutritious school lunch.
Only 149,000 children or 59 percent of students receiving a School Lunch start their day ready to learn with a School Breakfast. At this time, Maryland ranks 14th in the Nation in School Breakfast participation rate after making tremendous progress over the past five years to ensure all children have access to nutritious meals. Over the course of five years, Maryland’s school breakfast program participation rate has increased by 37 percent, and our school lunch participation rate has more than doubled with a 56 percent increase.
I am encouraged by these developments and efforts to continue to expand School Breakfast access for all children. Marylanders are united in the vision that the ability of children to learn and succeed in our classrooms should not be impaired because they come to school hungry. Thanks to the partnership between Governor Martin O’Malley, the Maryland General Assembly, national organizations such as the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, the Family League of Baltimore, and Maryland Hunger Solutions, our State has continued to make efforts to expand access to School Breakfast with the Maryland Meals for Achievement program.
Maryland Meals for Achievement allows schools where 40 percent of students or more qualify for free or reduced price School Lunch to provide School Breakfast meals for all students at no cost to the child. This program combines the expansion of the School Breakfast program with innovative efforts to encourage increased participation, including a change in the traditional breakfast delivery model of serving School Breakfast meals in the cafeteria to an in-classroom setting. Schools have shown a positive increase in school breakfast participation rates from the new “Grab and Go” breakfasts or “Breakfast After the Bell” programs, allowing more students to be better prepared to succeed in the classroom. I commend Governor O’Malley for requesting additional funding this fiscal year for the Maryland Meals for Achievement program that will allow an additional 40,000 students to receive a healthy breakfast.
According to a study sponsored by the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, research has shown students who receive a School Breakfast are better prepared to learn and perform in their classwork, are less likely to be overweight, have more strength and endurance throughout the day, are less likely to cause classroom disruptions, and are less likely to be absent from school than if they were not receiving a school breakfast.
In closing, I am honored to join with Maryland Hunger Solutions and Marylanders across our State who are committed to do better for our children. On this Maryland Day, we reflect on our rich past and look forward to a bright future in which the only hunger our schoolchildren have is a hunger to learn. I am proud that Maryland is leading the fight against childhood hunger. Together, let’s all “Hear the Maryland Crunch!”