West Virginia leads nation again in school breakfast participation
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews
The Food Research & Action Center announced Tuesday for the second year in a row West Virginia is doing better than any other state in the nation getting school kids to eat breakfast at school.
It wasn’t always that way, Richard Goff, executive director of the Office of Child Nutrition at the West Virginia Department of Education, told MetroNews.
“It was a just a checkmark in a box that we offered breakfast but we didn’t make it readily available. So we realigned the (federally-funded) breakfast program to make it part of the instructional day,” Goff said.
Until a few years ago West Virginia was only feeding about 28 percent of students breakfast. FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard released Tuesday showed that number has increased to 82.3 percent.
“It was because it was being offered at the worst possible time of the day,” Goff said of the lower rate. “When the buses were arriving, students were arriving late and they wanted to talk to their friends.”
But a change occurred a few years ago with the Feed to Achieve program passed by the legislature and championed by Sen. John Unger (D-Berkeley), according to Goff.
“That in conjunction with the federal program called Community Eligibility that ensures that all students can eat breakfast at no charge to the parent. Those two things have helped,” Goff said.
The scorecard agreed with Goff.
“State legislation passed in 2013 requiring all schools to offer alternative breakfast service models has been the primary driver of participation increases in recent years. In addition, wide usage of the Community Eligibility Provision and strong state leadership have contributed significantly to the precipitous rise in West Virginia’s participation in recent years,” the FRAC report said.
Breakfast is now an integral part of the school day not an interruption to the school day, Goff said.
“It’s a great way to start the day. You get the child in, get them settled, get them a hot meal and get them ready to learn and we weren’t doing that in the past,” Goff said.
FRAC measures School Breakfast Program participation by comparing the number of low-income children who eat school breakfast with those who receive school lunch. West Virginia, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. are at the top of the list. Utah is at the bottom.