CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students across West Virginia will have the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch at school at no cost. West Virginia is one of only four states to be selected to participate in the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) for the 2012 to 2013 school year.
The CEO will allow the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to expand its Universal Free Meals pilot, which currently serves eight counties – Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Lincoln, Mason, McDowell and Mingo.Â All have seen increases in the number of students eating breakfast and lunch this year because of this project.
“We know that well fed children are able to focus in class and ultimately do better in school,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “We are unsure of the entire scope of this opportunity but we know that it will have a tremendous impact on our ability to feed West Virginia children both a healthy breakfast and lunch for free.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released data reporting high levels of food insecurity and hunger across the country. In West Virginia, nearly 14 percent of residents live in food insecure households and more than 88,500 children live below the poverty line.
The CEO was enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and provides universal meal service to children in high poverty areas.Â This is the second year for the option. The CEO is an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible students in high poverty Local Education Agencies (LEA).Â If at least 40 percent of a school’s students are directly certified for free meal benefits, the entire school qualifies for the option.
At least 293 schools in West Virginia already qualify for the CEO, creating the opportunity to feed thousands more children every day.