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Program Helps Feed Students All Summer Long
By Kera Mashek
June 11, 2014


When school is in session, 70 percent of West Virginia kids rely on cafeteria breakfasts and lunches as their primary source of nutrition, but now that kids are on summer break, a program is stepping in to help make sure kids don't go hungry. Every year, the state's summer feeding program serves up more than a half-million meals to kids in need, and the program's value extends beyond helping improve their physical health.

On a nice summer day, these kids are enjoying a picnic lunch, but there's something different about this meal gathering. It's made possible by the state's summer food service program.

"Hunger doesn't take a summer vacation. So during the summer months, where we're used to serving about 180,000 meals a day to school age children, the summer program steps in and it's that safety net for nutrition for those kids during the summer months," said Richard Goff, WVDE Office of Child Nutrition Executive Director.

More than 400 meal sites are set up across the state, like Charleston's MLK Center. The Office of Child Nutrition partners with dozens of community organizations to provide meals and a safe place for kids to go. But the benefits of this program go far beyond filling up bellies.

"What we're finding is kids that participate in our pgorams are more aware, more alert, ready to learn. There's higher test scores, achievement's up, behavioral problems are down, tardiness is down, and absenteeism isn't a problem any more," said Goff.

Kids are also learning the value of good nutrition. The meals include healthier options like this lunch, with a turkey wrap, broccoli, and fresh fruit. As illustrated by these pictures of their favorite meals, kids are also finding these fresh foods taste pretty good, too.

"It's healthy and really good and the King Center is really good and helps you learn and gives you healthy food," said student Zairayeah White.

Volunteers say it's a privilege to help feed the needs of children this summer through tutoring, crafts, and of course, good meals.

"We have to address the needs of the whole child, not just this piece or that piece, but all the needs and that whole piece all the time so I'm just thrilled God's allowed me to be part of addressing the needs all the time," said Edna Green, assistant director of the Partnership of African American Churches.

If you'd like to find a summer feeding site near you, log onto http://wvde.state.wv.us/ocn-download/Forms/SFSP/2014/SFSP_SiteMap2014.pdf. You can also text WVMEALS to 877-877.

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