West Virginia is one of seven states selected to participate in the USDA's Community Eligibility Option (CEO), which will provide nearly 90,000 West Virginia students the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch at schools at no cost. The CEO, part of reforms mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will make it easier for eligible children in low-income communities to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. As a participating state, West Virginia plans to expand its Universal Free Meals pilot from 73 schools in eight counties to 283 schools in 35 high need counties for the 2012-2013 school year.
"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," Marple. "It's unfortunate that many children in our state rely on school meals and summer feeding programs for their main nutrition. These programs are vital to their well-being."
According to a recent press release, West Virginia has established itself as a national leader in child nutrition and wellness. A new federal law calls for both fruits and vegetables to be offered every day; increases whole grain-rich foods; limits milk offerings to fat-free or low-fat; restricts calories and portions based on children's ages; and reduces saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
Jefferson County School's nutrition department is an active participant in a statewide approach to improving child nutrition options for the state's schoolchildren. The school system provides local produce on a regular basis by taking part in a Farm to Food program as well as participating in the Community Eligibility Option Program.
The CEO program in the county has two schools who will receive meals at no cost because a percentage of students at those schools qualify for free or reduced lunches. Ranson Elementary and T.A. Lowery Elementary students will all receive meals at no cost for the coming school year. Students at other schools in the county who qualify for reduced meals will now receive free meals as all reduced are now free, according to Arlene Leonard, nutrition director.
Strong nutrition programs are especially important in West Virginia, where nearly 150,000 children are considered needy and qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals. About 85,200 West Virginia children live in homes where they don't know how they will get their next meal. Public schools helped those children and others by serving 14.8 million breakfasts and 32.3 million lunches last year. In addition, the Summer Food Program this year fed about 16,000 children daily at about 464 sites across the state.
Applications for free or reduced lunches should be submitted online at School Meals Online of WV. Please stop by the Office of Child Nutrition, Jefferson County Board of Education for assistance with the online application process. Please note that all applications are good only for the current school year. Applicants must submit a new application for the new school year. Current status will expire on October 3, 2012. Free/Reduced Meal Applications will be available at all school offices or at the Jefferson County Schools Central Office.
For more information on the nutrition programs offered in Jefferson County, contact Leonard at the Board of Education office, at 304-725-9741