By TAYLOR STUCK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It’s often labeled as the most important meal of the day, and in West Virginia, most students are digging in.
More than 80 percent of low-income West Virginia students eat breakfast every day they are at school, according to the annual School Breakfast Scorecard, released last week by the Food Research & Action Center, a national nonprofit organization that says it’s working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and under-nutrition in the United States.
The Scorecard ranks states on the basis of participation of low-income children in the national School Breakfast Program. West Virginia tops the list, with New Mexico and the District of Columbia coming in second and third, respectively.
Nationally, on an average day during the 20152016 school year, 12.1 million students eligible to receive free and reduced-price school meals participated in school breakfast, an increase of 3.7 percent, or nearly 433,000 children, from the previous school year.
West Virginia held onto the top ranking among the states for the third year in a row, reaching an average of 83.9 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch, and growing participation by 4.6 percent over the previous year.
West Virginia and Kentucky joined seven other states that reached at least 60 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch.
Kentucky was also one of three states that saw significant growth, increasing school breakfast participation by 10.7 percent from the previous year.
Ohio actually went down in ranking from the previous year with 53.7 percent of low-income students eating breakfast this year as opposed to 55.7 percent the year before.
“School breakfast is crucial for children’s learning as well as their health,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center, in a release. “While we are certainly happy progress is being made, there is still much room for improvement. Federal and state agencies, school districts and education stakeholders must continue their efforts to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program.”
Along with state initiatives, the report found the Community Eligibility Provision, which rolled out nationally in the 20142015 school year, also is proving to be an effective strategy for driving growth in school breakfast participation. It allows school meals to be served free of charge to all students at high-poverty schools. By spring 2016, there were more than 18,000 high-poverty schools, serving 8.6 million children, offering breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students.
All Cabell County schools provide free breakfast and lunch as part of that provision. The district is able to claim 75.2 percent of all meals served at the free federal reimbursement rate.
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