CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than 400 sites across West Virginia will be open to feed children this summer, an alternative to the meals provided in public schools during the year.
Nationally, more than 22 million students are fed breakfast and lunch at school each year -- a vital resource for millions of low-income students who aren't fed at home, especially not well-rounded, nutritious meals.
But come summer, those students are without that resource. On average, 58 percent of West Virginia schoolchildren depend on free and reduced-price meals at school.
"We're only reaching a very small percentage of children during the summer," said Jim Harmon, of the United States Department of Agriculture. "So we've really got to do something about that."
Local organizations -- like county school systems or nonprofit groups -- open sites to low-income students through the summer months. The idea is to give them a place to get a nutritious meal much like the one they would get in school during the academic year, ensuring nutritional meals for low-income kids.
Rick Goff, executive director of school nutrition for the state department of education, called the program a "safety net."
"And it's not only that we need to combat child hunger, but we need to do it in a healthy way," he said.
Last year, more than 452 sites were open for the program across the state. They fed, on average, more than 13,000 students each day -- or 600,000 over the entire summer. Officials say this year's program will be roughly the same size, with more than 400 sites serving children.
The full list of sites can be found on the state Department of Education's website, at http://wvde.state.wv.us/child-nutrition/sfsp/resources.html, or by contacting the Office of Child Nutrition at 304-558-3396.