Lynne Evans, principal at Eastport Elementary in Annapolis, said she has seen firsthand how important school breakfast is to her students. One morning when the normal cafeteria assistant was unavailable, she and a few teachers helped distribute breakfast.
"Please don't worry, I'm going to help you out with this," Evans recalled saying over the announcements. "I walked into the classroom with one of the breakfast bins and they broke into spontaneous applause."
Evans was one of several school leaders from the state of Maryland and Anne Arundel County who joined Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday morning at Eastport Elementary to discuss the importance of breakfast in schools and its role in academic success.
O'Malley and State Superintendent Lillian Lowery said local legislators and educators being intent on ending child hunger has been a contributing factor in making Maryland public schools the top-ranked system in the country for five straight years.
"When we set the goal several years ago to have the best public schools in America, there were people who said, 'Oh, you shouldn't do that—what happens if you don't hit it?'" O'Malley recalled.
His response: "But what if we do?"
O'Malley proposed a $1.8 million increase in funding for Maryland Meals for Achievement in his FY2014 budget, which is scheduled for passage by the state legislature in early April. This increase would allow 57,000 more Maryland students to get breakfast in schools, according to a state press release.
"In just six years, we have increased by 60 percent the number of children eating breakfast in Maryland public schools," O'Malley said. "Of all the innovations that we can implement, the one that squares the most with our heads and with our hearts is the one that affects a child's stomach."
According to a study by the state and a Deloitte research team, increased accessibility to breakfast in Maryland schools could significantly decrease absenteeism, increase standardized test scores and increase the number of high school graduates by nearly 8,000 per year.
The study also found that Maryland schools currently providing breakfast to students are 12.5 percent more likely to reach "proficient" scores on standardized math tests. More information on the study can be found at the No Kid Hungry website.
This emphasis on the importance of ensuring all students have access to food comes as the free-and-reduced-meals program, which offers meals at reduced rates for low-income families, could be impacted in Anne Arundel County Public Schools by federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
AACPS spokesman Bob Mosier told Patch $2.7 million has been set aside, ready for a transfer should sequestration be initiated. Should that transfer go through smoothly, the school system would navigate sequestration without disruptions, Mosier said.