Students all over West Virginia receiving meals despite closures

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Monday was the first day around the state of West Virginia where all schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Essential school staff such as cooks, bus drivers, custodians, principals, and more were still on the job, many trying to make sure that children do not go hungry during a closure period will at least be for the next two weeks.

“Every county is doing things a little differently,” Amanda Harrison, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition said.

“We keep saying we are building the plane as we fly it. And we are in deep gratitude for the counties working all across the state to make sure kids don’t go without food.”

The state’s largest school district, Kanawha County Schools, is implementing bus route deliveries to students. Dozens of buses were loaded up Monday at the feeder high schools with both breakfast and lunch and drivers went on their regular route to drop off the meals beginning at 10:30 a.m.

“We got together at 5:30 this morning (Monday) and we got up into an assembly line to fix breakfasts and fix lunches. We did 100 bags per school,” Christine Smith, Head Cook at Overbrook Elementary in Charleston told MetroNews.

Smith said the meals in Kanawha County consisted of a muffin or pop tart, along with cereal, juice, and milk for breakfast. For lunch, the students received a few healthy snacks such as vegetables and fruit to go with their turkey, ham or cheese sandwich.

Bagged meals were also available for pick up at all 68 Kanawha County schools, which is the plan most taken throughout the state.

“It’s going very well,” Smith said. “I was really surprised that the kids were coming out and getting them. And as we find out more information and find out how it is working, we might be working differently in the morning.”

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said there were 505 sites in the state for meal distribution for students on Monday.

According to Feeding America, more than 1 in 5 children in West Virginia live in a household that is food insecure. The state DOE says 67 percent of school-aged children qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

“I will tell you that within a 48 hour-period when the governor announced the closure of school, the number one priority was to make sure that children were fed on day one. We can say unequivocally it was done.”

VIEW: Feeding Site Information for all 55 counties

Gov. Jim Justice announced last week that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all schools in the state were closed until at least March 27. Teachers around the state are returning to the classroom at various points this week, joining the essential staff.

“I think we have to give a huge shutout to our service folks who stepped up, our cooks, our custodians, our bus drivers,” Burch said. “But even though our teachers are charged to be preparing for these lessons at home, across the state I have heard stories of teachers showing up to help.

“I think these good stories of our community, and that’s just being true West Virginians, was a prime example of making sure that every one of our children had a meal.”

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