Across the country today, schools and school nutrition personnel are celebrating National School Breakfast Week, an opportunity to shine a light on the importance of school breakfast and its role in preparing our students to learn each morning. In Maryland, while we have made record investments in our public schools and worked to ensure that our educators are prepared to teach students to succeed in a 21st Century economic climate, this week also serves as an important reminder that all of those efforts are for nothing if we are unable to meet one of a child's most basic needs: proper nutrition.
When the O'Malley-Brown Administration launched the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland in 2008, we did so because we believed that it was within our capacity and our compassion as Marylanders to ensure that no child goes hungry in this state. Recognizing that hunger can manifest itself in our youngest citizens in so many different ways, including in our classrooms, we have implemented a variety of strategies to increase school breakfast participation in an effort to ensure that children who may arrive at school without eating breakfast at home are still equipped to succeed.
Schools throughout Maryland have worked with us to introduce new methods of serving breakfast, allowing students to eat together in the classroom or stop by a central kiosk to pick up a breakfast on the way to first period. With a diverse group of partners, from non-profits to members of the private sector, we have come together to ensure more than 63,000 additional children are now receiving a free or reduced-price breakfast at school each morning, an increase of 74 percent.
Now, other states are beginning to take notice, looking to Maryland as a leader in the effort to address childhood hunger. The state-funded Maryland Meals for Achievement program has come to serve as a national model for states seeking to close the participation gap in the School Breakfast Program, and according to the Food Research and Action Center, Maryland's growth rate in school breakfast participation has been amongst the top five states in the country the last two years, one of only two states to achieve that feat.
The March issue of Governing magazine recognizes Maryland's accomplishments in the work to connect children with nutrition resources, but perhaps more importantly, our willingness to set ending childhood hunger as a policy goal and to hold ourselves accountable to that goal through StateStat. It is due to this consistent evaluation of our efforts that we can tell you not only how far we have come, but also helps us identify the work we have left to do.
In the words of Frederick Douglass, "it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Here in Maryland, we have made a commitment to ensuring every child is strong and free from the effects of hunger. Together we can continue to lead the way in addressing issues that truly matter.