Featured in Powell Valley News on April 5, 2017
First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe visited Dryden Elementary School on Friday to tour classrooms during the afterschool supper and backpack distributions of the Virginia 365 Project to End Childhood Hunger in Southwest Virginia.
She visited the first grade classroom of Angie Fannon. Mrs. McAuliffe visited with the students, assisted with snacks and read the book, April Foolishness. The students asked the First Lady questions about her family and dog and also related stories about their own families.
The Virginia 365 Project works in partnership with the First Lady of Virginia, Feeding America Southwest Virginia, FeedMore, Share Our Strength, Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Health Virginia, Department of Social Services, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, and Virginia Tech – Cooperative Extension, to end childhood hunger by providing food to children where they learn, live, and play, 365 days a year.
As one of eight national demonstrations to develop a model to end childhood hunger, the Virginia 365 Project uses new or existing USDA programs to ensure all students in participating schools receive three meals a day at no cost for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
Dryden Elementary School and Lee High School also participate in the food backpack distribution for weekends and short school breaks.
The project, initiated by Mrs. McAuliffe, funded by the USDA, and supported by No Kid Hungry Virginia, aims to decrease food insecurity, school absenteeism, and behavioral problems while increasing academic performance. The program is already showing success, including:
- Almost 15 percent more breakfasts are being served in the Southwest Virginia 365 schools this year compared to last.
- In January 2017 alone, over 29,000 afterschool meals were served in the Southwest Virginia 365 schools.
- On average, over 3,000 weekend food backpacks are distributed per week to children in Southwest Virginia through the Virginia 365 Project.
“The Virginia 365 Project offers us the opportunity to ensure access to proper nutrition for our children three times a day, every day,” said Mrs. McAuliffe. “Once the success of this model is proven, initiatives such as this one could be expanded across the state and the country. Projects of this magnitude are only successful through the hard work and dedication of those involved. I am so grateful to all the partner organizations, schools and families who have helped make the Virginia 365 Project a success in Southwest Virginia.”
“Lee County Public Schools is pleased to be a part of Virginia Project 365. Providing our students a solution to childhood hunger and food insecurities enable the students to nourish their body and in turn focus on nourishing their minds,” said Leah Herring, School
Nutrition Specialist for Lee County. “Weekend backpacks reinforce the food securities enabling the students to come to school on Monday morning ready to learn.”
One in six kids in Virginia live in families that struggle with hunger. Research shows that hunger has serious consequences for children, including lower test scores, weaker attendance rates, and higher risk of hospitalization and chronic diseases.
“When kids get the food they need, they grow up smarter, healthier and stronger,” said Duke Storen, senior director of research, advocacy and partner development at Share Our Strength. “And that means a smarter, healthier, stronger Virginia.”
As part of her visit, the First Lady also attended a planning meeting with child nutrition leaders and partners in Southwest Virginia to discuss progress made around breakfast, afterschool, and summer meal programs.
Mrs. McAuliffe’s efforts were recognized with the Rex Gearhart Youth Hunger Awareness Award at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mountain Empire dinner in Bristol on Friday evening.
Visit va.nokidhungry.org for more information about No Kid Hungry Virginia’s work and the Virginia 365 Project.