CHARLESTON, W.Va. – As the school year begins, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is lending a hand to counties as they implement West Virginia’s Feed to Achieve Act. Feed to Achieve requires counties to set up an account where funds can be collected to support innovating feeding programs.
“Counties are beefing up their child nutrition programs as part of the new Feed to Achieve legislation,” said Rick Goff, executive director of the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition. “Public schoolchildren in West Virginia will benefit from the state law that provides county school systems with new ways to collect additional funding from the local community and private businesses to support school breakfast and lunch programs. As with any new initiative, there are a lot of questions and concerns so WVDE staff members are working hand in glove with county systems for a seamless implementation.”
Across West Virginia, about 58 percent of West Virginia students qualify for free- and reduced-price meals through the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program.
“Research shows that when a child arrives at school hungry, they are unable to focus in class and cannot learn,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. “Feed to Achieve is a unique opportunity to join forces with our community to feed more students.”
Senate Bill 663, called the Feed to Achieve Act, was signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and focuses on improving the nutrition, physical activity and health of West Virginia’s children. County schools systems are required to phase in the legislation no later than the 2015 school year. Feed to Achieve bolsters the goal of universal free meals for students and requires the WVDE and each county board of education to establish a fund to support increasing participation in nutrition programs. For the counties that do not have a strong funding base, the WVDE will develop a state fund to assist those who want to participate.
“It’s important to note that the federal Community Eligibility Option (CEO) also supports universal free meals but it is different than Feed to Achieve,” said Goff. “Unfortunately, I think some parents may not know the difference. Feed to Achieve collects funding from West Virginia non-profit organizations, community organizations and businesses, and serves all students. CEO is federally funded and serves eligible students verses all students.”
Under Feed to Achieve, expenditures from state or county funds will be used solely to offset food costs to students through any of the programs or initiatives approved by the Office of Child Nutrition, including the following programs; School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, Summer Food Service Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the farm-to-school initiative and community gardens. Funding may also be made available for initiatives developed with the Department of Health and Human Resources and public-private partnerships to provide outreach and nutritional meals when students are not in school. Under the state law, other costs can be offset with the establishment of nonprofit foundations to raise money to help pay for the free meals.
The Office of Child Nutrition is in the process of developing an implementation plan for the new legislation. If you have questions on the Feed to Achieve Act, please contact Richard Goff, Office of Child Nutrition at 304 558-2709.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.