West Virginia school students to eat free meals this school year - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia school students to eat free meals this school year

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Students in 13 Fayette County schools will have the chance to eat breakfast, lunch and snacks at school at no cost this year.   The county is participating in a program called the Community Eligible Option.

In a press release from the board of education, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools James Phares said, "Feeding a child is paramount to student achievement.   We know that countless children in our state go to school each day hungry making it impossible for them to focus on school work.   I applaud Fayette County Schools for deciding to participate in the CEO."

The following schools qualified and have been enrolled in the CEO program:

  • Ansted Elementary School
  • Ansted Middle School
  • Collins Middle School
  • Divide Elementary School
  • Fayetteville Elementary School
  • Gauley Bridge Elementary School
  • Gatewood Elementary School
  • Meadow Bridge Elementary School
  • Mount Hope Elementary School
  • New River Elementary School
  • Rosedale Elementary School
  • Valley Elementary School
  • Valley High School

All of the Elementary and Middle Schools have been enrolled in the program and one High School.

"It is important that schools provide and promote proper nutrition," stated Fayette County Superintendent of Schools, Keith Butcher.  "Fayette County's participation in the Community Eligibility Option allows us to have an even greater impact on the growth and development of our students."

Throughout the state, 38 of 52 eligible county school systems have decided to participate in the CEO.   Approximately 332 schools will participate reaching nearly 110,000 public school students.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released information reporting high levels of food insecurity and hunger across the country.   In West Virginia, nearly 14 percent of residents live in food insecure households and more than 88,500 children live below the poverty line.

According to the release, the CEO was enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and provides universal meal service to children in high poverty areas.   This is the second year for the option.   The CEO is an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible students in high poverty Local Education Agencies.   If at least 40 percent of a school's students are directly certified for free meal benefits, the entire school qualifies for the option.

Families in the 13 participating schools will not have to fill out the meal applications.   However, all families in the four high schools that did not qualify will have to fill those out.   This can be accomplished on line at the web site www.wvschoolmeals.net or with a paper application from the school.

Participation in the CEO program will allow Fayette County to feed 90% of its students free.   Since almost 65% of the students in the four schools that are not participating in the CEO are eligible to receive meals free if they will just apply.

According to David Seay, Child Nutrition Director, "we are not just concerned with providing everyone a meal, but we want those meals to be highly nutritious.   We are making an effort to purchase local Fayette County farm products.   We provide a salad or a salad bar at every lunch meal.   Fresh fruit is available at both breakfast and lunch.   We are trying to cook more items from scratch and use less processed food.   Many schools have fresh fruit available throughout the day.   We have four elementary schools providing a fresh fruit snack three or four days a week under the fresh fruit and vegetable program"