By Ashley Hodge, The Gazette-Virginian
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and those in the food service program at Halifax County Public Schools are doing what they can to make sure local students are getting plenty of it.
The governor and first lady announced Wednesday that over 10 million more school breakfasts were served to Virginia students during the 2016-2017 school year compared to the 2013-14 school year.
Last year, a total of 266,409 breakfast meals were served at Halifax County Public Schools, according to Gwen Nunn with food services.
But, it’s not just breakfast purchases that are growing locally but also lunches.
A total of 538,543 lunch meals were served locally during the 2016-17 school year, she added.
The school division also began participating in the Community Eligibility Program during the 2016-17 school year allowing free breakfast and lunch with two local schools participating in that first year. This year five more schools were added to the program.
Since expanding the program, Nunn said breakfast sales in August increased by 3,133 compared to August of last year, and lunch increased by 3,309.
On average, over 50,000 more students statewide are eating breakfast each day, and for the first time in Virginia, more than 60 percent of free and reduced price eligible students who eat lunch also eat breakfast at school each day.
“School meals are essential for Virginia’s students to succeed, and they’re key to our efforts to build a 21st century workforce,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Thanks to these efforts, more than 50,000 additional Virginia students are getting nutritious meals at the start of their school day. I am proud of First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and this administration’s work to connect local communities with federal nutrition programs and bring taxpayer dollars back to nourish our children and support the educational mission of our schools.”
“Thanks to our strong public-private partnerships and commitment to evidence-based programs to expand the role of schools as nutrition hubs, Virginia has become a model for the nation in ending childhood hunger,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, who has been a leading advocate for school nutrition. “Now more than ever, we are proving the connection between school meals and student success, and today’s announcement means that those benefits are quickly spreading to more and more Virginia communities.”
The McAuliffe administration has significantly increased the resources available to help divisions expand access to school breakfast.
A total of $2.7 million was appropriated in the governor’s budget over three years to help schools transition to alternative models for school breakfast, like “Breakfast in the Classroom” and “Grab and Go Breakfast,” which are proven to improve participation and academic achievement.
More than 700 schools across the commonwealth have adopted these models since the funding was first implemented.
As a result of participation growth, Virginia schools have unlocked an additional $22 million per year in federal reimbursements.
First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe has made it her top priority to end childhood hunger in Virginia by connecting schools with federal nutrition programs that ensure every student has access to healthy food.
Her partnership with the No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign has resulted in millions more school meals served to Virginia students at no cost to them.
Continuing efforts to ensure students are fed breakfast Feed VA Day of Action will be held on Friday, Sept. 29.
On that day, all students in Halifax County will be offered breakfast at no cost with the goal of providing breakfast to as many students as possible.
See full coverage here.