Study shows more W.Va. students eating school breakfast

By MICHAEL ERB

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A national study found participation in school breakfast programs increasing in West Virginia and Ohio.

A study released Monday by the American Dairy Association Mideast said schools participating in the Fuel Up To Play 60 grant program in West Virginia and Ohio had 43 percent of their students eating breakfast, well above the national average of 28 percent.

Though Wood County Schools has only two schools which received the grant — Gihon and Williamstown elementary schools — the district averages about 40 percent of 13,000 students eating school breakfast each day, said Food Service Director Hollie Best.

Last year the Wood County Board of Education approved a free breakfast program for the district’s 27 public schools through the Community Eligibility Program. The board also approved a free lunch program for the district’s 13 Title I schools.

“Last year (breakfast participation percentages) were running in the low 30s for participation, and when we began it was in the mid-20 percent range,” Best said. “A lot of the credit goes to the Feed to Achieve Act in the state of West Virginia. That has really helped our breakfast program overall.”

Best said schools are looking at different ways to get children to eat breakfast. For example, many now offer a grab-and-go option which lets students take breakfast to class. Hamilton Middle School has a breakfast in the classroom program which has increased participation, and two of the high schools — Williamstown and Parkersburg High — now offer a breakfast following first period.

“Teen kids aren’t typically hungry first thing in the morning,” she said. “Giving them the option of breakfast a little later in the morning has seen good results for both schools.”

But Best said officials still hope to see the breakfast program grow.

“My goal is to get participation up to more than 50 percent,” she said.

Best said she hopes to present an update on the breakfast and lunch programs to the school board after the first of the year.

“We are seeing the kinds of results we thought we would see: an increase in the number of students eating breakfast and savings to the program,” she said.

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