Universal Meals Program Aims to Improve Child Nutrition

August 10, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Schools in eight West Virginia counties have been selected to participate in a program that provides free meals to all students regardless of income.

All schools in Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Lincoln, Mason, McDowell and Mingo counties and West Side Elementary in Kanawha County are participating in the Universal Feeding Pilot program, which the state Board of Education discussed Wednesday during its August meeting. Schools participating in the program will offer breakfast or lunch or both.

“Research consistently shows that children who eat a well-balanced breakfast and lunch perform better on standardized tests, have higher math scores and lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness,” said state Superintendent Jorea Marple. “This program is designed to support child nutrition programs and increase breakfast and lunch participation while eliminating any barriers hindering a child’s ability to participate.”

Schools and counties that volunteered to participate in the one-year pilot have a high percentage of children who qualify for free or reduce price meals. By increasing participation, schools likely will be able to recover much of the cost associated with the program through federal subsidies.

To participate, volunteers agreed to not only increase their breakfast and lunch participation but also eliminate processed foods and increase school-made meals, offer more choices to students and offer breakfast after first period, in the classroom or grab and go options.

Success of the program depends largely on parents completing applications to participate in the free and reduced meal program. Data provided on applications will determine the federal reimbursements school systems will receive for providing free meals. Parents eventually will be able to complete applications online. For now they are available from the central offices of the participating county school systems.

 “It’s unfortunate but many West Virginia children rely on school meals for their main nutrition,” said West Virginia Superintendent Jorea Marple. “By increasing participation in school meal programs we can decrease childhood hunger. In a state with a 60 percent poverty rate, promoting good nutrition in schools is good for the community.”

For more information, contact the Office of Child Nutrition at (304) 558-2709, or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

--The West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) are committed to ensuring all students in the state are college and career ready when they graduate from a public school. What West Virginia students are learning in school exceeds national and international standards. Through the WVDE’s 21st century learning plan called Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it.,” West Virginia is seeing better student performance on the West Virginia Educational Standards Test 2 (WESTEST2); the SAT and the ACT college entrance exams; the job skills assessment called Work Keys given to career and technical education students; and in a high school graduation rate that exceeds the national average. 

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