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WV Best in U.S. for Kids Getting Breakfast in School

PHOTO: As a hunger-fighting strategy, the number of children getting breakfast in school is rising. West Virginia now is tied for best in the nation for its ratio of kids eating breakfast at school, according to a new report. Photo courtesy Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
PHOTO: As a hunger-fighting strategy, the number of children getting breakfast in school is rising. West Virginia now is tied for best in the nation for its ratio of kids eating breakfast at school, according to a new report. Photo courtesy Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
February 11, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Hard work invested in getting school breakfasts to more West Virginia kids is paying off.

A new survey has found the state has the highest percentage of qualifying students eating school breakfast in the nation. Gayle Manchin, president of the state Board of Education, said schools here have used three strategies - letting kids eat in class, or after first period, or letting them grab breakfast on the go. She said it's having good results for learning.

"Kids from all different backgrounds come to school without having the nutrition that they should have," she said. "By implementing a combination of the three, we have doubled the participation rate."

Statistics show that kids who eat breakfast in school have better attendance, better test scores and fewer discipline problems. As one school official put it, students can't be hungry to learn if they're just plain hungry.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, 320,000 more children nationwide ate a healthy breakfast at school last year than the year before. Today, said FRAC president Jim Weill, more than 11 million low-income kids eat breakfast at school.

"That's just hugely important," he said, "not just so kids are less hungry, but hugely important for their health, for their behavior in school, and for their ability to learn."

Manchin said the state also is working on connecting students to where the food comes from. Buying produce from local farmers is a way to ensure that school food is fresher and better-tasting, she said, adding that in some cases, students actually are growing food served at school, which makes good nutrition more fun.

"If children grow it, they will eat it," she said. "So, maybe they wouldn't have eaten broccoli before, but if they grow broccoli, then all of a sudden they're more inclined to want to eat broccoli."

The first week in March is National School Breakfast Week.

More information is online at frac.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV