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STEVENSVILLE It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For students and educators in Maryland, this message has become more than just a saying to encourage healthy eating habits, it is now the founding principle of a statewide school initiative called the Maryland School Breakfast Challenge. On Sept. 19, the program kicked off when hundreds of Maryland schools, including some in Queen Anne’s County, offered free samples of school breakfast items to students and parents.

Dr. Carol Williamson, superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, spent the morning with students and parents at Kent Island High School and Matapeake Elementary School to gauge their feelings about school breakfast as they filed in for samples of free food.

Speaking about the initiative, Williamson acknowledged that most students in Queen Anne’s County eat breakfast at home and don’t rely on eating breakfast at school, but she agreed with the state’s overall objective.

“Students perform better academically on a full stomach,” she said.

The Maryland School Breakfast Challenge was created this year in large part by the governor’s office to encourage more students to eat breakfast at school on a regular basis. The program is structured as a competition between schools in each district, with rewards being given out to those schools that have the biggest jumps in breakfast participation and meal enrollment. The challenge officially begins on Nov. 1 and will last until the end of January.

In promoting this initiative, Gov. Martin O’Malley said too many students are skipping breakfast on a regular basis, causing a lack of energy and diminished academic performance. According to the website for the new program, the state’s objectives are to get at least half of the state’s schools involved in the competition and to ultimately have 10,000 more students eating breakfast than did last year.

To keep in step with new statewide nutritional standards,
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school cafeterias are being required to carefully craft the meals being served to students. As of July 1, schools in Queen Anne’s County and throughout the state now regulate the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar contained in each meal served to students. The state’s Board of Education and Department of Health hopes these rules will promote nutrition and consumption of healthy foods.

Sitting across from her son Kyler in the cafeteria at Matapeake Elementary School, Christine Polmgren ripped the nutrition facts from the packaging on a small box of cereal, carefully analyzing the ingredients and each row of nutritional data. When Kyler, a kindergartner, asked his health conscious mom if she would buy him that cereal to have at home she shook her head.

“None of these would be my first option, but they’re fine,” Polmgren said, when asked if she approved of what the school was offering. “If he missed breakfast at home I would have no problem with him eating at school.”

Eating with her mom in the cafeteria in Matapeake Elementary School, 3rd grader Olivia Tryon, was also pleased with the breakfast available at her school. “It was good, I wish they did this everyday,” she said, trying to open her 1 percent milk to wash down a reduced fat cinnamon bun.
black dr martens boots Schools kick off governor's breakfast initiative