University of Maryland Extension

Taking a “Crunch” out of Childhood Hunger

Rogers Heights Elementary students learning songs and dances regarding the importance of food for a school aged child
Image Credit: 
Denise Benoit-Moctezuma

At approximately 9:15 AM on March 25th, over 800,000 Maryland students simultaneously chomped down on apples to raise awareness for childhood hunger, taking part in the statewide movement, “Hear the Maryland Crunch.” Specifically, at Rogers Heights Elementary in Bladensburg, MD, students were provided with an educational presentation from the University of Maryland Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (UME-EFNEP), allowing UME-EFNEP to take part in a movement to ensure that every child has the opportunity to “break” their “fast.”

“I talked about the importance of the word “breakfast” or “breaking” your “fast” since most people have not eaten for more than 7-8 hours after they wake up in the morning, and that breakfast provides the energy they need to start their day off on the right foot so that they can focus and do well on their assignments and tests in the classroom,” Denise Benoit-Moctezuma, supervisor for UME-EFNEP in Prince George’s and Cecil counties. “I also talked about the different food groups on MyPlate and how we need to have at least three food groups to have a healthy breakfast."

Additionally, using the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate healthy eating recommendations as a guide, Benoit-Moctezuma talked to students about making healthy substitutions for breakfast foods they enjoy; for example, choosing Multi-Grain Cheerios over Fruit Loops.

“The kids truly enjoyed being a part of this event, and they were very well behaved and respectful to the guests who came to offer their services,” Benoit-Moctezuma recalled. “They also had a great time crunching into the fresh and juicy apples that Giant Foods donated for this event!”

Hosting this event at Rogers Heights Elementary is intended to not only raise awareness about childhood hunger, but also educate students and the community about just how significant a role breakfast plays in a school-aged child’s life.

“Roger Heights is also considered to be in a food desert, and many of the limited-income families living in this area need these additional services, including nutrition education and food resources,” Benoit-Moctezuma explained. 

Therefore, with help from UMD-EFNEP, Rogers Heights students were not only able to enjoy a free apple, learn and sing new songs, and meet Johnny Appleseed, but were also able to discuss how to make healthy breakfast choices; information that they can take home to their parents, in turn transforming the community one family at a time.

EFNEP is jointly administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland’s Department of Nutrition and Food Science and University of Maryland Extension EFNEP focuses on diet quality, nutrition, food savings, and food safety and helps limited-income families and youth acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behavior changes necessary to promote health and wellness and reduce chronic disease risk.

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