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Op-ed: Hungry students can’t learn; support legislation for free meals at school

Now is a good time to call or write to state legislators in support of the Maryland Cares for Kids Act, which would replace reduced-price meals with free meals for qualifying students. The first hearing for this bill is scheduled for Thursday, February 8, before the House Ways and Means Committee. 

This legislation would assist about 45,000 students statewide, and more than 7,000 students in Baltimore County public schools who qualify for reduced-price meals. 

The families meeting the income requirements for reduced-price meals often cannot afford even the reduced fees. I became acutely aware of this after a conversation last year with the cafeteria manager of my son’s former school, Loch Raven High, who told me that at any given time, about half of the students qualifying for reduced-price meals did not have any money on their cards. 

A family of four may not have income exceeding $45,510 to qualify for reduced-price meals.  Given that the annual income needed in Maryland for a family of four to be self-sufficient is about $60,000 (and this is without setting aside anything in savings for retirement, emergencies, a college fund, etc., according to the United Way ALICE Report), families at this income level are still  thousands of dollars away from self-sufficiency.

Indeed, nearly 30 percent of families in this category suffer from food insecurity. 

Reducing hunger among students is one of the most basic and effective ways to improve a child’s education – hungry children can’t learn! Read more about the legislation here

Let the members of the Ways and Means Committee know that you support this bill. You can also sign a letter online.

-Laurie Taylor-Mitchell
Co-founder of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools and Founder and President of The Loch Raven Network of Baltimore County

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