Public Service Announcement to Help Eliminate Stigmas Around FARMs Assistance Programs In Howard County

Image captured from YouTube video

I saw this public service announcement posted on the Howard County Government Facebook page and on Twitter from the Howard County Public School System…and thought it would be good information for the blog to share to the community. Here is detailed information from the HCPSS website:

December 11th, 2018

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Michael J. Martirano released a video today urging families to take advantage of supports for which they qualify – specifically the Free and Reduced Meals program (FARMs).

In the video, Ball and Martirano experience the school lunchline the way a student receiving FARMs assistance and a student not receiving the financial assistance would. Showing that the experiences are identical, they hope to eliminate stigmas associated with the program so that students may receive the support they need.

“While so many of us are blessed to be able to live in Howard County, too many of our friends, colleagues and neighbors are struggling to provide for their families,” said Ball. “There are supports available for qualifying families and the process to receive those supports are far more private and confidential than they may have been many years ago.”

Having been a child growing up in poverty and receiving free meals through the FARMs program, Martirano understands that long-associated stigmas remain and is relieved to know that students today are not identified as receiving supports the way they once were.

“Thankfully, it’s a very different process where students today all have the same experience in the cafeteria whether they are receiving a free meal or paying full price,” said Martirano. “It’s critical that every child has their needs met before we can expect them to thrive in an academic setting. This program helps fulfill some of those needs.”

Currently, the FARMs rate in Howard County is 22.5 percent which is a .27 percent increase from the 2017-2018 school year. Martirano has made connecting more families to benefits offered as a result of FARMs eligibility a major priority for the school system. Earlier this summer, HCPSS simplified the enrollment form, launched a new web page to explain benefits and has translated information about the program’s benefits in multiple languages. HCPSS will work with community partners and non-profits to distribute the PSA throughout the Howard County community. To learn more about the benefits of the FARMs program, check eligibility status and apply, visit the HCPSS FARMs website.

View enhanced video transcript →

Scott E

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  1. Now, if both of them would sit down and partake of that dreadful slop, they would understand why children aren’t eating the free/reduced lunch. The food that the school system serves is awful.


  2. That is what the parents are for – packing lunch for your children, whatever you think is the best . Isn’t that part of the responsibility of raising children? Free lunch is a welfare based on taxpayers money to help the needed. Appreciate the education department came up with reasonable nutritious meal with reasonable cost which makes it possible to supply all children in need, considering tax money is not unlimited.

    I hope we can reduce the regular tax, but give the option of voluntary tax. People can write additional check for whatever clause they support without mandating others to do the same. So if you support better quality free school lunch, you could contribute to that specific funding. Other families who pack their children lunch anyway can contribute to other clauses they find more important.

    If you looking into the leftover of summer free lunch program, you may be surprised to find out how wasteful it actually is. In that sense, I trust private charity more than government welfare which is full of bureaucracy.


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