Md. teachers finding hungry kids in their classes

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left, and Tom Nelson, president of Share Our Strength

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left, and Tom Nelson, president of Share Our Strength

By Tricia McCarter-Joseph

Public school teachers in Maryland say they are seeing students who regularly come to school hungry and some teachers purchase food weekly for these students.

A new report finds that 63% of Maryland teachers surveyed say children are not getting enough to eat at home and this is having a negative effect on students’ academic performance.

In a panel discussion at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Verjeana Jacobs joined other federal and state panelists to announce the findings of a survey of over 1,000 public school teachers who teach from kindergarten to 8th Grade.

In partnership with Share Our Strength, a nonprofit organization advocating against hunger in schools nationwide, the discussion focused on raising awareness of state food programs available in schools across Maryland.

No jurisdictions are hunger free

“We don’t have a single jurisdiction [in the state] that’s hunger free,” said Anne Sheridan, director of the Maryland campaign for Share Our Strength.

CORRECTED: According to the Maryland State Department of Education website, about 368,000 school children were enrolled in programs for free or reduced-priced food for the 2011-2012 school year.

Finance officials who oversee these programs at the education department estimate its value at $241 million and project a slightly increased figure for the upcoming school year.

In addition, in the 12 months ending in March, 17,000 new kids were added to the School Breakfast Program, part of a state partnership called the First-Class Breakfast Initiative to end childhood hunger.

Not reaching enough children

But the teacher survey, called the No Kid Hungry Campaign, also found that programs were not reaching enough needy children and families. Of the nationwide 20 million eligible kids only 9.8 million were served last year.

“We have to be moved by these findings. It is a very real experience that [people] are facing everyday,” said Sheridan who also believes that in order to reach the goal of providing for more children, more attention needs to be paid to the teachers who see them everyday.

Overcoming stigma

The deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer affairs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Janey Thornton, expressed concern regarding coming up with creative ways to get kids to participate in the programs by making it “cool” especially for high school kids.

Survey data showed that some kids do not want be singled out as poor by eating in the cafeteria and will forgo eating to socialize with friends. In response schools have implemented Grab N’ Go meals and Breakfast in the Classroom.

However, some parents are taking advantage of the programs. Panelist Lareese Cathey whose daughter participates in the breakfast program at Graysonville Elementary School.

“It’s very rewarding for us as parents to step up and make sure the needs are being met for our children,” Cathey said.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Cindy Walsh

    The priority in the state needs to be collecting the $600-800 billion in mortgage fraud still left from the interest payment settlement by Gansler of $25 billion. All financial analysts placed this settlement as a compromise for trillions in fraud by banks, law firms, accounting firms, etc. So, the State of Maryland has billions coming to it if politicians will get busy and make it happen. So we do not have budget deficits that leave our children hungry and localities in need of cutting social funding, we have a deficit of justice that holds a massive fraud accountable to returning wrongful gains to government coffers.

  2. heidihoneighbor

    Oh please. IF teachers are finding so many starving children in America, then use another taxpayer funded agency called Child Protective Services.
    Stop using the old taxpayer funded fall back.

  3. abby_adams

    Hunger free zones? I question the survey of teachers, 63% report hungry kids with poor classroom performance? Exactly which jurisdictions were polled?
    No where is it mentioned that area school systems are on the hunt to sign up more kids to meet state quotas to satisfy federal goals. The parent panelist’s remarks are also very insightful. She is happy to pass the burden of feeding her child breakfast over to the state. Who feeds this child breakfast on the weekends, holidays, spring & summer breaks?
    Not every poor kid goes to school hungry. Not every affluent kid goes to school with a full belly. It all depends on your values. If we want to encourage even more gov dependence, why not require year round daily feedings at school for kids since parents can’t be trusted to adequately feed their kids. That should erase one aspect of poor classroom performance reported by polled teachers. Then again when Johnny or Jane still aren’t prepared for school & act up in class, who do we blame? school cafeteria workers?
    There is a price to pay for gov handouts, not only the wasted tax $ but another generation that knows little about personal responsibility for even the smallest of life skills. We do these kids no favors by making it “cool” to get free meals, not when families are struggling on a daily basis with stagnant wages, higher STATE imposed taxes & fees, higher gas & food costs, employers leaving the state. It only adds to the resentment of those who foot the bill for gov largess.

    • Dale McNamee


      Baltimore City is already doing such during the summer…Where are the clergy of the many churches in the city in all of this ? They are frequently present at council meetings demanding/extorting funds from the city government ! I guess that their congregations aren’t THAT charitable !

      Also, this is the age of the “infantilized moronic adult” who demands that “mommy & daddy” ( the government & taxpayers ) take care of them !

      I have a deal for them…I’ll take care of you, but you’ll do “what I say and when I say”, you will lose all of your privileges ( drinking,sex,drugging,etc.), you’ll have no voice in what happens !

      Deal ?

  4. nc865429

    At-Risk Afterschool meals,

    First of all, insert those children’s mothers with Norplant until they can feed themselves and their children. Never-ending government intervention is not the answer. As long as the government is feeding children 3 meals per day via schools-the mother should be required to be on Norplant. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY MUST BE INSERTED INTO AMERICAN LIFE…NOT THE NEVER-ENDING WELFARE STATE. THE WELFARE STATE CREATES DEPENDENT SLAVES (OH, I FORGOT, THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT).

    • Dale McNamee

      I’ll go you one better on Norplant…Vascectomies & tubal ligations for these “helpless” people…One can avoid using Norplant…The other option can’t be avoided once it’s done…

      • Educ8or

        I agree, but who is going to pay for that? We are. It is cheaper to give out government cheese and a loaf of bread

  5. Dale McNamee

    Why are the taxpayers. especially those without children in the school system, again being held responsible for feeding of other people’s children ? It’s because we keep on re-electing these “creatures ” to office !

    I’m disabled & unemployed, ( not getting SSDI ), on a limited food budget, so I buy no snacks, soda, etc. I shop very carefully and am able to have 2-3 meals a day ! ( I also don’t eat out )…And, aren’t some, if not all, of these kids’ families eligible for Food Stamps ? I’m not eligible for them because my wife earned “too much” ! What about going to the many ” food pantries ” to get food for free ? I do.

    So, why are my wife & I responsible ?

    And the fact that some kids don’t want to look “uncool” by eating the food that my wife & I, and other taxpayers paid for… Let ’em ” starve ” ( they won’t )… Also, check the garbage cans and dumpsters to see how much uneaten food is thrown away !


    Leave we responsible. ” non-dependent ” taxpayers ALONE !

    ( I apologize for “shouting”. )