West Virginia lawmakers tackled childhood hunger and school performance in one bill when they passed the West Virginia Feed to Achieve Act (SB633) on April 12, 2013. The bill passed 89-9 with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The goal of the Feed to Achieve Act is to provide breakfast and lunch to every child in West Virginia schools at no cost to the families. Non-profit entities will solicit donations in order to help bridge the gap between the funds received from the Federal school lunch program and the actual cost of the meals.
??When students are hungry and distracted, they’re not learning,? said U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education Arne Duncan who joined Share Our Strength at a panel discussion in Hyattsville, Md. to release the survey findings. ?To set kids up for academic success, we must make sure they’re getting the healthy food they need at breakfast and lunch so they can concentrate in the classroom throughout the day.? (Source: NEA)
Children in West Virginia are almost twice as likely to live in high poverty areas than the National average according to the report West Virginia Kids Count by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2012 Kids Count Data Book by the same organization found that?West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in the report’s education indicators. Nearly four out of five of the state’s 8th graders (79%) are not proficient in math, and nearly three out of four 4th graders (73%) are not proficient in reading.
The Feed to Achieve Act is a pioneering piece of legislation designed to make sure that kids have the nutrition they need to be able to learn more effectively. Del. Ray Canterbury stated that he thought that the kids should work to earn their lunches instead.
“I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” the?Greenbrier County Republican?said. “If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important?lesson.” (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Predictably, this sparked an intense response from other lawmakers including Del. Jeff Eldridge who reminded them that they are often treated to free meals from lobbyists and constituency groups. “If you haven’t taken a free lunch while you’ve been here in the last 59 days, then vote red.” (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
The Feed to Achieve Act should be a model for the rest of the country and I hope that West Virginians are proud of it.
Christin Berger is a recovered conservative who is passionate about the environment, equality, and education.??? She is the author of the Jacqueline the Great series of children’s books with more books on the way and has six creative children (read: messy) and one very active ferret.