March 9, 2022

While school meals have looked a little bit different since the start of the pandemic, one aspect that hasn’t changed is that the School Breakfast Program is still more important than ever. School breakfast programs are a vital tool in addressing childhood food insecurity and ensuring students across the nation have the healthy meals they need to start the school day energized and ready to learn.

As we celebrate National School Breakfast Week (March 7-11), Maryland Hunger Solutions is ramping up to celebrate Hear the Maryland Crunch on Thursday, March 10, to highlight the importance of school breakfast and the incredible work our school food nutrition professionals have been doing to serve healthy school meals through the immense challenges of the pandemic. School breakfast continues to be offered at no cost to all Maryland students during the 2021-2022 academic year. This is due to the child nutrition waivers from the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These waivers issued by the USDA have been critical in addressing operational challenges due to the pandemic. That’s why we encourage you to urge Congress to extend USDA authority to authorize these waivers beyond their expiration date of June 30, 2022, through the 2022-2023 school year in the appropriations package currently being negotiated and expected to pass this week.

Prior to the pandemic, Hear the Maryland Crunch was celebrated in classrooms, offices, state buildings, homes, and even on the steps of the state capitol as students, teachers, parents, advocates, and policymakers alike synchronized biting into an apple together in a “crunch” that could be heard from the Atlantic Ocean to the Potomac River. While celebrations have been mostly virtual in recent years, the meaning behind this special day has not changed. With the economic impacts of the pandemic causing food insecurity rates to skyrocket, it is more important than ever to continue this celebration to spread the word about critical child nutrition programs, like school breakfast and their role in supporting the health and wellbeing of Maryland students.

Additionally, Hear the Maryland Crunch highlights the incredible work done by school nutrition professionals to meet the needs of their communities during the pandemic. School nutrition staff were among the first to respond to the public health crisis when schools closed their doors in March 2020 and have continued to go above and beyond to ensure that Maryland children had access to healthy school meals each day. Although many school districts have returned to in-person learning, operations are far from returning to “normal.” The threat of new variants and outbreaks, staffing shortages, and supply chain issues continue to hinder school meal service operations.

As these challenges and impacts of the pandemic continue to impact our schools and communities, more policymakers across the nation are recognizing the importance of school meal programs and the critical role they have played in supporting families through this crisis. That’s why this year, Maryland is considering a piece of legislation that would allocate state funding to help provide healthy school meals for all public school students in Maryland through SY 2022-2023 and in high poverty community schools permanently. HB 857/SB 971, introduced by Delegate Reznik (D-39) and Senator Young (D-3), would bring Maryland one step closer to joining the ranks of states like California, Maine, and Minnesota, which have already begun implementing their own Healthy School Meals for All initiatives.

While this increased focus on and support of school meal programs could not be more timely, everyone’s voice is still needed to continue the movement towards Healthy School Meals for All in Maryland. Some of the ways to support this cause are listed below:

Join us in celebrating Hear the Maryland Crunch on Thursday, March 10! Celebrating Hear the Maryland Crunch is simple and only takes four easy steps:

  1. Take a picture or video of yourself biting into an apple.
  2. Post that picture or video on social media on Thursday, March 10. Be sure to include #HearTheCrunch and tag Maryland Hunger Solutions – @MarylandHunger on Twitter and @MarylandHungerSolutions on Facebook)
  3. Include a message of gratitude to the incredible school nutrition staff in your district and across the state, and share why providing school meals to ALL students at no cost is important to you and your community.
  4. Invite all your friends, classmates, teachers, elected officials, and colleagues to join you and post their pictures or video as well!

Join us on social media on Thursday, March 10, with apples (or virtual apple backgrounds) in hand to share your support of our hunger heroes and uplift the need for expanding access to healthy school breakfast for all!