Kanawha County Schools relaunches feeding program; state superintendent weighs in

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The feeding program for the state’s largest school district, Kanawha County Schools, is back on after being suspended on Sunday evening due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district announced late Monday afternoon that it will relaunch the program, including bus deliveries, beginning Wednesday.

The model of the plan is one delivery day per week with multiple days worth of bagged meals being delivered. This week’s delivery day will be Wednesday and we will distribute three days worth of meals.

Prior to the relaunch, Clayton Burch, the State Superintendent of Schools criticized the school district for suspending its delivery of bagged lunches.

Clayton Burch

“What we saw last night (Sunday) was a break in the chain that we are going to correct today (Monday),” Burch said on Monday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’ “Those children in Kanawha County will be fed. I believe they will step up and do the right thing.

“I definitely think it was a mistake to pause one of the state’s largest feeding programs.”

The school district’s original announcement on Sunday included “Given the Governor’s direction for everyone to stay home and due to current conditions and limitations brought by the spread of COVID-19, we are discontinuing bagged meal service. We value the health and safety of our employees and also of the volunteers who’ve been supporting us.”

On Monday morning, Kanawha County Schools corrected itself in a tweet saying, “Yesterday’s announcement about the cancellation of our foodservice pointed to the Governor’s direction in our reasoning. The Governor did not have a part in our decision and we apologize for any misconception or misunderstanding that may blame any person for this cancellation.”

Since the tweets by the school system, Gov. Jim Justice put a stay-at-home order in place for the state.

According to Kanawha County Schools, all meals will be delivered on Wednesday at bus stops as bus drivers did last week.

“We will continue to provide details leading up to delivery days and we thank you for your patience as we work to see that our students are fed,” a statement by the district said.

Burch said the state Department of Education is working with multiple agencies on student meals throughout the state including the West Virginia National Guard, food vendors, and the foodservice industry.

On Monday, Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard said over 100 restaurants have signed on to support feeding children throughout the state and over 500 feeding site locations for schools.

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.

Burch was complimentary to all who were out last week serving meals to all 68 Kanawha County schools and every district around the state.

“We have got to give massive props out to our county cooks and our bus drivers, who are the front lines and continue to come in,” he said. “Even under this dire situation, we have a lot of caring adults out there.”

As of Monday, schools around the state are set to be closed through at least Friday, March 27.

“We lead the nation in poverty and I on my watch will not be the first state superintendent in the country to say we’re not going to take care of our young children,” Burch said.

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