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Breakfast program is 'under discussion'


Baltimore County is the only school system in Maryland that does not participate in the National School Breakfast Program, but new Superintendent Stuart Berger says he's studying the possibility of joining the fold.

"It's under discussion, but there's been no decision if we'll offer breakfast," he said.

Dr. Berger's predecessor, Dr. Robert Dubel, long opposed the breakfast program, which is operated, along with the school lunch program, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The breakfast program is designed to ensure that students, particularly those from low-income homes, get a decent meal at the start of the day.

Last week, a Washington research group said millions of children nationwide may be starting school hungry because their schools aren't participating.

"The availability of school breakfast to students may be the difference between being attentive and learning in school and falling behind and losing self-esteem," said Michele Tingling-Clemons, author of the study by the Food Research and Action Center.

The group said low-income students were more likely than others to arrive at school without eating breakfast, but noted that children with long bus rides and working parents may also leave home without eating.

As an alternative to the formal breakfast program, individual schools in Baltimore County are usually prepared to feed children who show up hungry, said Katherine Chin, nutrition specialist for the Baltimore County Schools.

"If students come to school hungry, they are given a snack," added Myra Treiber, spokeswoman for the schools. But there's no formal program for the youngsters.

Instead of serving breakfast, Dr. Dubel wanted to provide nutrition education that would teach children and families how to prepare breakfast every day, not just on school days, Ms. Treiber said.

About 7 percent of Maryland's students do eat in the breakfast program, according to Shelly Terry, chief of nutrition and transportation services for the state Department of Education. "The breakfast program is a ready, in-place way to help kids do better in school."

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