Prince George’s County received a D grade for healthiest school environments last year, according to a new report released by Healthy School Food Maryland, which ranked the county the fifth worst in the state.
Based on a scoring sheet that assessed 13 areas of nutritional practices in all state jurisdictions, Prince George’s County earned 65%. Allegany and Garrett counties tied with a 63% rating. Worcester and Cecil counties received a grade of F, scoring the lowest in the state at 58% and 56%, respectively.
The highest-rated school system was Howard County, which was the only school system to receive an A+. Second place was Anne Arundel, which scored 94%.
St. Mary’s County schools tied for third place with Baltimore city and Kent and Frederick counties, with a score of B+, or 87%. Calvert tied for seventh with Montgomery County at 85%, while Charles scored at 81%, finishing ninth out of the state’s 24 school systems.
In the second year of the nonprofit’s review, Healthy School Food Maryland reported an 8% overall improvement in school nutrition since 2016, after adding a new category to their scoring sheet to account for healthy vegetarian options, for which school districts earned an average of 45% of possible points. From 2017 to 2018, scores for all Maryland school systems improved.
Health School Food Maryland scored local school systems from 0-4 on items like menu transparency and variety, healthfulness of vending machines, access to potable water in schools, programs like scratch cooking and farm-to-school, and chemical additives.
With concern over elevated lead levels in some state schools, only Frederick and Kent counties received the highest score on potable water access “for expressly allowing personal water bottles and putting water bottles on their school supply list,” according to the report. “Other districts have either done nothing, or worse, forbidden students from bringing personal water bottles to school,” the report said.
“Our department has purchased water bottle refilling stations that are being installed at each of our schools to promote water consumption,” Valarie Parmer, nutrition specialist, wrote about Calvert schools. To view the report, go to www.healthyschoolfoodmd.org.