MADISON — Boone County Schools now offers free breakfasts and lunches to all students, regardless of their ability to pay, when schools opened this year.
“Students in Boone County will have the opportunity to eat a free school breakfast and lunch provided for through a program called Community Eligibility Option (CEO),” said Dewana Clemens, Boone County Schools Food Service Director.
This program eliminates the need for families to fill out paperwork proving their eligibility for free or reduced-price meals for children.
“This is an exciting school year for the students of Boone County,” said John Hudson, Superintendent of Boone County Schools. “Providing a free breakfast and lunch to every student is paramount to student achievement. I applaud the Boone County Board of Education for making this possible for every student in Boone County public schools.”
Hudson said the studies show that when students eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, the overall school climate improves.
“In addition, proper nutrition and consistent meals improves student achievement,” he said.
Clemens said this allows staff to focus on feeding children.
“From the cooks to the rest of the staff, everyone is on board,” she said. “Every child has a right to healthy, nutritious meals in school. This takes the burden of proof off our low-income families and allows all children and their parents, regardless of income, to know healthy meals are waiting for them at school every day.”
State education officials said about 55 percent of West Virginia students qualify for free- and reduced-price meals, but only about one of every three students statewide have been taking part in the school breakfast programs.
During the 2011-2012 school-year in Boone County, 2,233 breakfasts were served daily, Clemens said.
“This increased to 2,692 breakfasts per day during the 2012-2013 school year, when free breakfast was offered to all students,” she said. “This was an increase of 469 breakfasts per day.”
Clemens said with the inclusion of free lunch being provided at the secondary school during the 2013-2014 school year, the numbers should show a marked increase as well.
Boone County Schools also offers a “grab-and-go” breakfasts. Students can eat breakfast in classrooms, and after their first-period class.
“We have also started an after-school feeding program that is free and should feed approximately 800 a month,” she added. “Our summer feeding program has also been very popular and well-received in our communities.”
The universal free meals program is for all students, pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Clemens also announced that Boone County Schools were awarded “Bronze” in the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Awards.
The Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary certification initiative established in 2004 to recognize those school participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.
In Feb. 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced “Let’s Move!” incorporating the HUSSC into her campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids.
At that time, monetary incentive awards became available for each HUSSC award level, Clemens said.
“Every school in Boone County was awarded $500 to purchase healthier equipment,” she said.
Clemens said Boone County Schools’ cooks recently received award plaques recognizing their achievements.
Boone County Schools are part only of three percent of all schools nationwide that have successfully me the challenge and are recognized for their success, leadership and excellence in school meals, nutrition education and physical activity, Clemens added.
“We will continue to strive to provide the best possible food services to our schools,” she said.