skip to main content


Howard County Executive and Superintendent Launch Public Service Announcement to Help Eliminate Stigmas Around FARMs Assistance Programs

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).

View enhanced video transcript →

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.