ANNAPOLIS – Maryland stands to lose at least $10.8 million over the next five years if Congress approves a plan to change funding for school lunch programs, officials said Thursday.
And given the state’s projected population growth rate, childrens’ educations may be hampered by hunger, Gov. Parris N. Glendening warned.
Glendening made his remarks after a lunch of low-fat turkey tacos, french fries and corn with students at Eastport Elementary School.
“Maryland cannot afford the consequences of ill-fed children,” Glendening said. “A hungry child cannot learn, and an illiterate adult cannot compete in a global economy.”
The Republican leadership in Congress wants to replace the current program, which pays states on a per-pupil method, with two block grants giving the states more control over how to spend the funds. The grants would encompass several school lunch and welfare programs. Over five years, the state would lose a total of about $114 million for nutrition programs overall.
“If we’re going to feed the same kids, someone is going to have to pay,” said Shelly Terry, director of food and nutrition programs for the Department of Education.
But the state may not be able to afford to pick up those costs, Glendening warned. Consequently, either fewer students or less food would be served.
State officials also are worried that the cut will be exacerbated by a projected 12 percent increase in Maryland’s population by 2000.
“This is not about reform, it’s about cutting the federal government’s commitment to the school nutrition program,” the governor said.
Almost 241,000, or 31 percent, of children statewide are eligible for free or reduced-price meals – a number that has grown nearly 10 percent in the past four years, Terry said. “If that trend were to continue, what would we do?” she asked.
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick said the federal government was trying to fix a system that was not broken.
“In Maryland, our goals state that by 2000 all children will be ready to learn and start school with a healthy mind and a healthy body,” she said. “We know what the school nutrition program means to that kind of readiness.” Projected local losses to school lunch program, for fiscal year 1996: BALTIMORE REGION Anne Arundel County
$66,528 Baltimore County
117,197 Carroll County
15,322 Harford County
38,842 Howard County
424,570 SUBURBAN WASHINGTON Montgomery County
136,416 Prince George’s County 250,925 Frederick County
25,133 SOUTHERN MARYLAND Calvert County
10,752 Charles County
25,536 St. Mary’s County
18,547 WESTERN MARYLAND Alleghany County
30,778 Garrett County
12,768 Washington County
29,299 UPPER EASTERN SHORE Caroline County
12,634 Cecil County
18,144 Kent County
6,048 Queen Anne’s County
7,930 Talbot County
6,720 LOWER EASTERN SHORE Dorchester County
14,784 Somerset County
13,037 Wicomico County
26,880 Worcester County
15,590 Source: Maryland State Department of Education -30-