County schools work on feeding guidelines

PARKERSBURG -As some school systems move to fulfill new state guidelines for school meals, Wood County is ahead of the curve. School systems throughout the state are working to meet Feed To Achieve guidelines approved by the state legislature that go into effect in 2015.

Twenty-one of the state’s 55 counties implement some sort of alternative breakfast strategy in all of its schools. That includes Wood County.

“Part of the legislation addresses breakfast, and the majority of the school districts moved to this a few years ago and started doing alternative methods,” said Beverly Blough, food service director for Wood County Schools. Blough said the county school system implemented a breakfast-on-the-go plan for tardy students and feedings in homeroom about two years ago.

“We are ahead of the game in that respect,” she said.

More than 330 schools in 38 counties already offer free breakfast and lunch under the Community Eligibility Option (CEO), which allows schools to provide all students free meals if at least 40 percent of the student body is eligible. The state has 52 counties with at least one CEO eligible school. Fourteen counties have resisted the program altogether, including Wood County, which twice rejected the program.

The Feed To Achieve Act aims to provide free, nutritious breakfast and lunch for all public school students by the fall of 2015. It’s different entity.

Feed To Achieve funds have been established throughout the state’s school systems and serve as public/private partnerships that will allow contributions toward free meals for students.

The program is not limited to just breakfast, Blough said. It is a broader program that provides opportunities for public to help fund feeding programs for children living in poverty. To that end Blough is hoping to advance work with community groups and organizations on weekend feeding programs. Previously, church organizations at Lubeck and McKinley elementary schools put together weekend backpack programs to provide meals on weekends. Blough said area community foundations are receiving funding requests for such programs. She would like to see the groups provide money to the school district for the programs.

“Our role would be to purchase the products and use our buying power as a large organization. … We have lots of groups doing good things and bringing us together will make sure we continue in that direction,” Blough said.

There are still details to be worked out, Blough said, but the basic structure remains.

“To make sure there is emphasis on starting the day with breakfast, and to work as a community in addressing hunger, we are seeing with kids in high poverty areas.”

West Virginia majority leader Sen. John Unger, D-Jefferson, will be in Wood County Aug. 20 to meet with the public at Jefferson Elementary to discuss the legislation and what it can do.