Riverheads Elementary, Augusta County to be recognized for breakfast efforts

By Bob Stuart, The News Virginian

WAYNESBORO — Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe will visit Riverheads Elementary Monday afternoon to recognize the school and the Augusta County Schools for their increased participation in the student school breakfast program.

The elementary school has earned top state honors in the Virginia Breakfast Challenge, increasing participation over the past year in the number of students receiving breakfast. Additionally, the Augusta County Schools are being recognized for increased participation in student breakfast. Both the school and school district are being honored in the Gala category of the breakfast challenge. The Virginia Breakfast Challenge is sponsored by the No Kid Hungry Virginia program.

Riverheads Elementary Principal John Matherly said a free breakfast is delivered daily to each student in their classroom by 7:45 a.m. He credits the success of the program at Riverheads to cafeteria manager Karen Eckard and her staff. He said the school also purchased thermal bags to keep the food items warm.

Matherly said the breakfast offering pays dividends in the classroom as well. "Any time you make sure a student is well fed, it sets them up to be more successful in school,'' he said. The principal said the result is a better start to the school day and fewer behavior incidents.

Matherly said students who eat breakfast at home use the food for a school snack.

Ron Abernathy, the supervisor of the school nutrition program for the Augusta County Schools, said the school district began a free breakfast program a couple of years ago in several elementary schools. This school year, all 11 Augusta County elementary schools and one middle school participated.

Abernathy said the school district has been pragmatic in funding the program, applying for grants initially, and depending heavily on USDA commodities. He said the eventual hope is to expand the breakfast program to all middle and high schools.

As for the Riverheads story, Abernathy said the school has been smart in how it applied the program. "It's not just the cafeteria staff and administration, the community has gained a lot of knowledge,'' he said.

The visit by Virginia's First Lady is part of her overarching effort to tackle childhood hunger in Virginia. Besides her work in the No Kid Hungry Virginia program, Dorothy McAuliffe is chairwoman of the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide.

She will be joined by other dignitaries Monday afternoon at Riverheads Elementary, including Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge.

See full coverage here.