CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Over the course of the summer, six million meals were served across West Virginia schools, compared to 500,000 last summer.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch says the pandemic gave way to increased need and they’re now bracing for the fall.

“The goal was that this fall, no matter what a parent was at — live in-person, blended, virtual — and for the nine counties that unfortunately have to start remote — the goal is they continue to receive a meal each and every day,” said Burch.

School districts have created different lunch delivery plans for the school year.

For example, Logan County schools will deliver breakfast and lunch daily to its remote student population at its bus stops.

Meanwhile, Cabell County Schools will offer online ordering and pickup for their blended instruction on certain days of the week.

Recently, a bill was introduced in Congress called the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act that calls for free universal lunches across the country.

The bill was introduced by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott.

While each of West Virginia’s 55 counties has at least one school that qualifies for free lunch under CEP guidelines or the Community Eligibility Provision, advocates of the bill say that in this upcoming fractured school environment, more can be done.

“What this is designed to do is take the financial burden out of the school systems and make it part of a national program,” said Bob Pepper with the West Virginia American Heart Association.

The organization is backing this legislation.

Pepper says having free lunches across the board also evens out the playing ground among students.

“The issue of free meals to some kids and not all kids can also create somewhat of a stigma.”

Bob Pepper, American Heart Association of West Virginia

According to Christy Day, communications officer for the West Virginia Department of Education, the USDA has issued waivers that allow states to feed children without the normal restrictions.