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W.Va. Universal Free Meals Project and Challenge Counties to Celebrate First-Year Successes

June 11, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education's Universal Free Meals Pilot is celebrating a birthday with all of the bells and whistles! It was one year ago that county school systems enrolled in the breakfast and lunch challenge in an effort to provide well-balanced meals prepared from scratch to students across the state. The West Virginia Department of Education Child Nutrition Office is celebrating with a recognition ceremony on June 11.

The celebration will be held at the Bridgeport Conference Center at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple will be in attendance to give out awards and serve as the keynote speaker. 

Marple has been an outspoken advocate for the importance of child nutrition programs.  At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, she issued a challenge to schools as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Team Nutrition Training Grant to get creative with breakfast and lunch.  In addition, the WVDE launched the Universal Free Meals Pilot.

"When children eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, the overall school climate improves," said Marple. "In addition, proper nutrition and consistent meals improves student achievement."

Schools accepted Marple's challenge and took action. Eight counties fully participated in the Universal Free Meals Pilot. Meanwhile, nearly all 55 county schools systems implemented some type of change in policy involving breakfast. Every county that participated saw an increase in the number of students eating breakfast. 

"The proof is in the pudding," said Marple. "For example, Elkins Middle School saw a 30 percent decrease in the number of school suspensions after changing its breakfast strategy."

Breakfast strategies included Breakfast-in-the-Classroom, Breakfast-After-First-Period and Grab-and-Go Breakfasts.  Another successful strategy was Books-and-Bites. At Watts Elementary School in Kanawha County, children participated in Books-and-Bites, in which children picked up a Grab-and-Go Breakfast when they arrived at school and ate it in the classroom while reading a book.

Universal Free Meals Pilot Awards

Most significant increase in breakfast:

  • Grade School - Point Pleasant Intermediate School in Mason County
  • Middle School - Guyan Valley Middle School in Lincoln County
  • High School - Matewan High School in Mingo County

Most significant consistent participation:

  • Grade School - Ranger Elementary School in Lincoln County
  • Pre-K through 8 - Hamlin Pre-K through 8 in Lincoln County
  • High School - Gilmer High School in Gilmer County

Challenge County Awards

Most significant increase in breakfast participation from the beginning to the end of the school year:

  • Elementary School - Junior Elementary School in Barbour County
  • Middle School - South Harrison Middle School in Harrison County
  • High School - Sherman High School in Boone County

Most significant consistent breakfast participation throughout the entire school year:

  • Elementary School – Sand Hill Elementary in Marshall County
  • Elementary/Middle School – Rowlesburg in Preston County
  • Grade School – Ramage Grade School in Boone County
  • Middle School – Summers Middle School in Summers County
  • High School – Summers County High School in Summers County

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at 304-558-2699.

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