‘We need to make sure that they’re nourished’: Free breakfast program expanding in Md. schools this fall

Currently, teachers, administrators and parents are all worried about finishing this school year strong. Classes are almost over and summer is drawing near, but planning and funding is already underway for the next school year now, too.

Last month. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore approved increased funding for the Maryland Meals for Achievement program, a decades-old program that offers free breakfast to students in schools where 40% or more of the student body is eligible for the federal free lunch program.

The $4.5 million increase will be especially noticeable in Prince George’s County, where 87 of the 123 schools being added to the program are eligible.

“This money is going to help children make sure that they’re able to eat every morning when they go to school,” said Ayesha Holmes, director of No Kid Hungry Maryland. “When they have breakfast, they do better in school. We know that their academic achievement is better. Their behaviors are much more in line with school expectations … and they’re ready to learn.”

More than 700 schools in every county participate in the program, which offers breakfasts even to the students who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible based strictly on family income.

“What this does is it takes away the stigma, as well,” said Holmes. “Whether or not the child has free or reduced eligibility, all children in the school are able to eat, which means that the kids eat. With stigma, children are more likely to go without food,” rather than be identified as poor by their peers.

Holmes said in the future, the goal is to expand the program to every school, in a similar way that several school districts operated during the pandemic; but she admitted that’s just not on the horizon yet.

“We want every child to succeed, and the core part of that is making sure you have a full belly,” said Holmes.

“You can’t focus; you can’t be expected to make it through the school day if you don’t have adequate nutrition. And these brains are growing and as they’re growing, we need to make sure that they’re nourished.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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