Maryland Breakfast Challenge Kickoff

By Anne Lindenfeld
Development Writer, October 3, 2016

To kick off this year’s Maryland Breakfast Challenge, No Kid Hungry held a celebration at Franklin Middle School with our co-sponsor, the American Dairy Association North East. Special guest retired Ravens Linebacker, Brad Jackson, attended the event and talked about how much eating breakfast every day helped him as a player – and how strongly it was encouraged by his team’s nutrition coach.  USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon expressed how important school breakfast is to the USDA’s mission to make sure kids eat right. And our own David Sloan, No Kid Hungry Maryland Director, emceed the event, which featured sports and nutrition trivia questions. To win prizes, kids shouted out answers to questions like: “What’s the most important nutrient in milk?” (Calcium!) and “What Ravens quarterbacks played during the team’s two Superbowl wins? (Trent Dilfer and Joe Flacco!)

For those who doubt the power of breakfast after the bell, all one needs to do is visit Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown in the morning.  One minute, the halls are empty — and the next, hundreds of kids swarm into the cafeteria, quickly divide themselves by grade to pick up their grab and go breakfast, and then head to class.  Stage directors at any Broadway show would be so lucky to have that kind of timing!

That these middle schoolers are pros at grab and go and is no wonder. They attend the school that beat out 231 other schools last year to win the Maryland Breakfast Challenge.  Today, 1,300 Franklin students are eating breakfast each morning, because their school made breakfast a part of the school day, instead of serving it in the cafeteria before homerooms and classes start.  Franklin Middle School shows how the timing of breakfast can mean the difference between kids getting breakfast so they can open their books ready to learn and kids sitting in class unable to focus on much else than their growling, empty bellies.  

Across the school, breakfast after the bell has big fans. School counselor, Monifa Mears, tells us she likes it because it helps kids get down to the business of learning faster.

“Kids aren’t worried about coming late and not getting their breakfast. Breakfast is available after most of our busses are here, and if kids are even later, they can get a pass so they can get the later breakfast,” Ms. Mears told No Kid Hungry. “Teachers say they like it, because they see their students sooner, since the kids are eating in class with them. Before, all the kids had to eat in one place, in the cafeteria, until breakfast was done.”

Head of the PE Department, Jaclyn Gordon, likes how grab and go makes it much easier to get good nutrition into growing bodies. “I talk about nutrition when I’m coaching cross country. I tell them that they need gas in their tanks to move their bodies and do what they need to do.  A car needs gas, and so do you. I talk about nutrition to the kids when I’m on cafeteria duty, too.”

Franklin Middle School is just one example of the work No Kid Hungry is doing across the country to change the way schools serve breakfast. It's a big change, but once it's done, teachers love it, parents love it -- most importantly, kids are happier, healthier and more successful.