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School Breakfast Event at Eastport Elementary School

Location: Annapolis, MD

Speaker Busch, thanks so very much for your leadership, your compassion and your commitment. I think Speaker Busch will agree with me when I say that whatever good we have been able to do as servants of the people of Maryland over these last several years has been a reflection of the goodness of the people we serve. When you ask the people of our State to make better choices, and you put out the options to them to either allow children to go hungry every day or to feed children, the people of Maryland will always choose the better choices. They'll always choose better results, and I think that's what we're so very blessed to be able to do, is to serve such a good people. There are not many states that have done more for kids, rather than less, in these recessionary times. So thank you, Speaker Bush and the community.

Leadership really matters. Principal Evans, thank you for your leadership at this great school. When we want to see examples whether it's the international baccalaureate program, or whether it's music in schools, you're your School Board are doing an outstanding job. Thank you for what you're doing to make Anne Arundel County such a great public school system.

Tom Nelson, thank you and everybody with Share Our Strength. And to Lillian Lowry, who is new to Maryland, she is an outstanding leader. She's done a great job in Delaware and she is going to take Maryland to the next level. So, Lillian thank you, for your passion and your commitment.

Members of the Maryland PTA are here, thank you for joining the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, and a big thanks to Anne Sheridan, who is our Secretary of Children, Youth and Families. I want to thank Share Our Strength for the good training they provided her.

There are some big, important things that we can only do together, and one of those really big important things that we can only do together is educate our children. In Maryland we believe that we are pro-growth Americans, and by that I mean we believe in children growing stronger, growing healthier, growing ever more educated because stronger children make a stronger America.

We share certain beliefs as Marylanders, for all our diversity, and most important of those beliefs is our belief in the dignity of every individual. That there is no such thing as a spare Marylander, or as a spare American, or as a spare child. And, therefore, there are certain reasonable expectations that we hope for one another for this place called Maryland, that flow from that belief. And those reasonable expectations are that our children deserve a healthy start, they deserve a decent home, they deserve a place to play where they don't have to dodge needles or bullets, and they deserve the ability to grow up free from the affliction of hunger.

In this common platform of ours called the State of Maryland, we have set 15 strategic goals. And among those strategic goals are creating jobs, improving public safety, improving public education. But one of those strategic goals is the eradication of childhood hunger in Maryland. And it is kind of senseless when we all generally can so easily fall into the trap of believing there is very little we can accomplish anymore together.

Maryland is a shining example of the fact that our best days are still in front of us. When we set the goal several years ago for having 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?" Well, we said "But what if we do?" And they said "But what if you don't?" I said, "Well, what if we do?" [laughter]. And so we did.

If you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're probably right. For five years in a row, we've achieved the best public schools in America. Six years ago, we set the goal of reducing violent crime,…not treating it like the weather, something beyond our control.

Instead, we said "No, we're going to reduce violent crime by 20%". There were people, some of them wearing guns and badges and uniforms, very courageous people, who said, "Well, don't do that. What happens if you don't?" I said "What happens if we do?" They said "Well, don't set a goal, because what happens if we don't?" I said "What happens if we do?" [laughter]. And so we did.

We actually reduced violent crime together, even in a recession, when there were plenty of excuses about why crime should be going up. In Maryland, we drove violent crime down by over 24%. That's a lot of lives saved. That's a lot of parents spared from standing at a grave site of a child.

Last year, we reduced by 30% the number of juvenile homicides. So, setting goals is important. Measuring progress is important. Making better choices is the most important thing. But if we set goals, we measure progress openly, and continue to work together we can achieve big things that seemed impossible. Including big things, like eradicating childhood hunger from the United States of America. It happens one state at a time, and our State will be the first state.

This is why I believe that is true. In just six years we have increased by 60% the number of children eating breakfast in Maryland public schools. We have increased by 33% the number of children eating lunch. If you can find a stock anywhere on the NASDAQ that has improved its value by 60%, you should buy it. By 33%, you should buy it.

Measurable results. We have more than doubled the number of children we feed each year through our Food Supplement Program. Measurable results. We nearly quadrupled the number of students receiving meals through our At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program. Better choices; better results. That's why we chose to increase and not to cut the dollars that allow us to expand the Maryland Meals for Achievement program.

With all of the dizzying numbers in front of you that have been given out from this great study, I think the most important one is found on page two, where it says that children who eat school breakfast on average, achieve math scores that are almost 20 % higher than children who don't get breakfast. So 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. We can increase by 17 to 20% outcomes for our kids in school, simply by making sure that they are fed in the morning and have breakfast.

In conclusion, investing in education, investing in the most basic needs, and meeting those human needs of our children so they can grow up healthy and strong,… these are not just good things to do, these are essential things to do. They are logical things to do. They are reasonable, needed things that we must do with a deeper understanding, and with a greater love, and a greater appreciation of the connectedness of our shared humanity. Life is precious, every child matters. Thank you for your good work.

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