The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 13, 2013

Feed to Achieve not starting from scratch

Students should notice state’s plan to target child hunger this fall

CHARLESTON — Students should notice West Virginia’s ambitious new plan to target child hunger while improving academic performance when they arrive this fall.

Expanding access to breakfast is likely the first component of the Feed to Achieve Act that will emerge following its signing by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin earlier this month, said Richard Goff, executive director of the Office of Child Nutrition at the state Department of Education.

“The game changer for our program and for the kids in West Virginia is the breakfast delivery strategy,” said Goff, a 23-year veteran of the department. “For the first time in my tenure, it makes the meal program part of the educational day. It’s not an interruption. That’s where we’ll see the big change.”

A nearly unanimous Legislature passed the new law this session. It aims to provide free, nutritious breakfast and lunch for all public school students, from prekindergarten through 12th grade. The measure cited research that links healthy eating to improved student attendance, attentiveness, behavior, test scores and overall achievement.

The legislative debate surrounding Feed to Achieve included anecdotes about children showing up to class hungry from school officials and lawmakers, some of whom were those students growing up. Goff said he routinely fields phone calls on the topic during the week students statewide take the annual standardized test.

“There is this sense of urgency regarding school meals,” Goff said. “Why is that sense of urgency not present every week of the school year? It’s important every day.”

Supporters consider West Virginia’s approach innovative, though the underlying problem is also being tackled elsewhere. The Ending Child Hunger in Alabama campaign, for instance, includes schools in its game plan and launched late last month. Nearly 300 public schools in Los Angeles, meanwhile, provide breakfast that students can take to class. But some teachers there have complained that the program eats into instruction time and that food left in classrooms attracts bugs and rodents, according to the union that represents them.

“That’s disturbing to me. They have a problem in California,” Goff said. “We don’t have that in West Virginia. We have yet to receive any complaints like that.”

All West Virginia schools provide breakfast, Goff said. Several also offer breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go meals for tardy students and breakfast after first period. Goff is upbeat about Feed to Achieve because it builds on those and other programs already offering meals to students, he said. More than 280 schools in 35 counties already offer free breakfast and lunch, for example, because their communities qualify for federal subsidies, Goff said.

“It does not place a huge burden on the school systems,” Goff said. “All it does is support, supplement and promote child nutrition programs that are already in place in West Virginia.”

Feed to Achieve has its hurdles. Both Goff’s department and each of the 55 county school districts must set up a special fund to attract and spend private donations. The goal is to fund additional or expanded programs. Goff cited how just over a third of students eat breakfast at school, though around 59 percent can receive free or reduced-price meals because of their household’s income, Goff said. The lunch participation rate is nearly 65 percent.

A learning curve also accompanies the new law. Goff plans to train his staff and then brief each county’s food service director. That’s also an opportunity to dispel misgivings about the new law, he said. Feed to Achieve does not require counties to solicit donation, nor does it require children to eat at school, Goff said.

“We’re not going to force-feed kids. That’s ridiculous,” Goff said. “If a family elects to have breakfast at home, that’s what they’ll do. The key words are availability and access.”

The West Virginia School Board Association plans to review Feed to Achieve and other legislation passed this session at a June 8 meeting, Executive Director Howard O’Cull said Friday. O’Cull also said he has yet to field any comments from county officials about that new law.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

  • Cornhole champions being decided in Charleston

    Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.
    The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

    July 19, 2014

  • Multi-state distracted driving enforcement planned

    Law enforcement agencies in six states plan participate in a weeklong campaign targeting distracted driving.

    July 18, 2014

  • Female guard accused of having sex with juvenile inmate

    A West Virginia Division of Corrections officer has been charged with having sexual contact with a female juvenile inmate at the Lincoln Detention Center in Wheeling.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads