Two of Frederick County’s public schools will see a change in their daily meal offerings for the 2019-2020 school year. Thurmont Primary and Spring Ridge Elementary schools will no longer offer free, in-the-classroom breakfast to all students.

According to Dian Nelson, a spokesperson for FCPS, schools can participate in the program, called Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA), if at least 40 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced-price meals (FARM).

The program, launched in 1998 by the State Department of Education, provides free breakfast after the bell to all students, regardless of whether they qualify for free and reduced-price meals. In previous years at Thurmont Primary and Spring Ridge Elementary, breakfast was provided to students in the classroom before instruction began. According to the MMFA website, providing breakfast in a classroom setting “ensures that every child has the time and opportunity to eat breakfast before learning, and no child is singled out due to full class participation.”

When schools begin participating in the program, they usually run for two-year phases before numbers are re-evaluated.

Nelson said Spring Ridge Elementary had qualified for the program for eight years, but as of October 2018, the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals fell to 33 percent.

Thurmont Primary, which had been running the program for two years, had its percentage drop to 38 percent.

Robert Kelly, senior manager of FCPS Food and Nutrition Services, said in an email the schools will still offer breakfast in the mornings. The difference is that breakfast won’t be free to all students, regardless of eligibility, and it will be served in the cafeteria instead of the classroom. Kelly said 10,698 students district wide were approved for free or reduced-price meals for the 2018-19 school year.

Kelly said that regardless of eligibility, it is important to remember that the morning meal is essential to successful student performance.

“When kids eat breakfast, they can focus in class on schoolwork and listening because they are not focusing on being hungry,” Kelly said.

He also said the school system encourages students to eat breakfast at school due to its convenience and low cost. Students who qualify for reduced-price meals can purchase breakfast for 20 cents, and students who do not qualify for free and reduced-price meals can buy breakfast for $1.60.

The MMFA program can be restored at the schools for the 2020-2021 school year if the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals rises again to 40 percent or above. Kelly says the only way to make sure the data is as accurate as possible is if families fill out an application to see if they qualify.

“If every family fills out the application, even if they don’t think they qualify, we are sure to accurately and completely capture the need in the community. ... They don’t have to use the benefit just because they qualify for it,” Kelly said. “The free and reduced meal rate is used to determine more benefits for a school than just free or reduced-price meals. Students who qualify often also receive discounted prices on other services. The school may also receive additional funding for education with higher free and reduced meals rates.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

(12) comments

Crab0721

Some of the comments are very harsh. We can't be quick to judge people as we don't know what their story is. Just because you make enough money and are healthy enough to take care of your child doesn't mean that everyone else is. There are a lot of challenges every families has. I honestly didn't know about this breakfast thing but I think that it is a good idea at least for the elementary school students but it should not just be specific schools it should be all of them. As far as the summer lunches go that is for everyone as well and it does help parents who are on budget because obviously they are going to be spending a lot more money for food during the summer. And don't be so quick to judge people who have the latest smartphone or fancy clothing that get assistance because you don't know if that was a gift from a family member or they bought it used.

dabittle

Over the years our public school systems, guided by politicians and ne'er do wells, has devolved from an institution responsible for inculcating our children in all things higher learning--think: math, science, history, critical thinking, written and verbal communication--into an kind of day-care, snowflake factory where schools, ever eager to be all things to all students, have taken on the role of social nanny. Nowadays, schools preoccupy their, and by extension our students, concerns with every conceivable social problem--drugs, domestic abuse, poverty, sexual orientation, racist repressions, etc.--at the expense of traditional meat-and-potato learning like reading, writing and arithmetic. This problem is not the fault of our teachers--they are acting on the orders of community leaders and politicians. I don't have any problem with the state buying a kid breakfast who is otherwise unable to afford it. I do have a problem with buying all kids breakfast so as not to make anyone feel different. Perhaps that kid who is made to feel different may well be motivated by that experience to the point that he/she works ever harder to extricate themselves from such poverty. And no, I'm not a Trump supporter.

MrSniper

Sir, young people today are less violent, less prone to smoke or use drugs, have lower rates of teenage pregnancy, are more tolerant of different types of people...in short they are light years ahead of where your or my generation were when we were their age. So yeah, although for some reason you find these social engineering programs distasteful, they work. Isn’t that the point? Results?

TomWheatley

Facts?

dabittle

"...less violent, less prone to smoke or use drugs, have lower rates of teenage pregnancy, are more tolerant of different types of people...in short they are light years ahead of where your or my generation" Have you heard what's going on in Chicago, 1,200 homiacides this year? El Paso? Dayton? These places are not "light years ahead of where I was" at there age...they've regressed to the seventh century.

MrSniper

What is happening in Chicago is hard to boil down to a few simple talking points, but I’ll try. Back in the 80’s, Chicago was run by

MrSniper

Gangster Disciples. The Fed’s came in and took all the OG’s off the streets & instead of having some level of order to all the criminal mischief, it became the Wild West. “Where are the parents”, you ask...the government introduced crack to these communities & mostly locked up the men. The women were left to raise their families alone. So you had a situation where children were unsupervised. The communities then tried to mitigate the inevitable chaos by restricting guns but this was opposed by the NRA and the right. 40 years later, the violence begets more violence. There are no kingpins for the authorities to target. So the community tries things like free breakfast and midnight basketball and trying to teach these young people that life is unique & precious & has value. Then people like you start to complain about “snowflakes” and rich people’s taxes going up & you let yourselves get distracted by trivial matters like city logos & who uses what bathroom. Anyways, Chicago is an anomaly. Overall youth crime is down. Mostly due to removing lead from the air, water, and living spaces.

rcfoster

So exactly how many kids in each school will no go without any breakfast?

User1

Why don’t we ask their PARENTS? Breakfast was never meant to be a part of the school day! What’s next dinner? And now feeding during the summer vacation also. It’s the parents that tell the news media “saves me a lot of money with my kids being fed during summer”. It’s not meant to save you money. I was meant to the poor families. Wonder if these same parents have the latest smartphone or smoke? Give that up and maybe you can “afford” to feed your kids. Or just get your butts up earlier and make them breakfast yourself!

Dwasserba

The ones whose parents could pay but don't, probably. The ones in homes where no one makes breakfast, or where they do but some kids don't get up early enough, or where the kids just don't care to eat so early. Kids who qualify for free can get it and reduced-price meal kids need 20 cents. Going to the cafeteria now may possibly be stigmatizing and a deterrent to some others.

shelleyfreeze1

Totally agree with your comments. Our country doesn't choose to spend enough money focusing on the most vulnerable in our society. The elderly and the children. And especially the ones that are poor in both these cases. And for the person who talked about the children rising above the circumstances, we are talking about elementary school children, not high schoolers.

DickD

And if you are hungry, you would be concerned about what others thought? Maybe, but if I was all that hungry it would make no difference. The real problem is the adults,failing to take care of their children.

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