All children deserve to be healthy, well-fed and successful in school. These goals are related; nutrition and good health are significant factors in school performance. Since children can't control the circumstances of their lives, it's up to us adults to provide the best that we can for all children in our communities.
Right now, Wood County has an opportunity to make a significant improvement in the area of the school meal programs. The problem is not in the quality of the meals - they are, in fact, excellent and nutritious; the challenge is to make the process easier, simpler and more attractive so that all children in a school have a healthy breakfast and lunch.
Wood County Schools can join with the 238 other West Virginia schools and over 100,000 students that are already participating in the federal Community Eligibility Option, which allows schools with high percentages of low income children to provide free breakfast and lunch for all children.
Under this option, if you are present at a CEO school, you are welcomed to the breakfast/lunch table. No longer would a child suffer knowing that he/she is "free lunch" child. Children spend about 8 hours a day engaged in school classes and travel; common courtesy calls for us to offer all of them nutritious food during this time.
There are other benefits to this option: families do not have to fill out applications for free or reduced meals; administrators no longer have to collect money and/or go after unpaid lunch bills; record keeping is simplified in terms of reporting.
But does it work? Apparently so, since none of the 238 participating schools in West Virginia have exercised the option to opt out of the program. Additionally, the schools reported increases in the number of students who participate in the breakfast and lunch meals.
Schools must have their applications into the program by July 1 to participate during the coming school year; I encourage the Wood County School Board, at its June 25 meeting, to vote to participate in this compassionate and successful program for the sake of our children.
Jane Harrington, CSJ