JACKSON COUNTY - To the delight of many area parents, The Jackson County school system is participating in a program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) called "The Community Eligibility Option."

All students in every middle and elementary school in Jackson County will receive one breakfast and lunch at school at no cost to parents during the 2013-'14 school year.

West Virginia was one of only four states to be selected to participate in the CEO for the 2012-'13 school year. The CEO allowed the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to expand its Universal Free Meals pilot, which served Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Lincoln, Mason, McDowell and Mingo counties. All eight saw increases in the number of students eating breakfast and lunch during the last school year as a result of the pilot.

Jackson County School Superintendent Blaine Hess is thrilled that Jackson County is participating in the program.
"Jackson County Schools is excited to offer nearly 3,600 middle and elementary students the ability to eat meals at school at no charge. We know that students that are not hungry perform better in the classroom and the CEO program gives our county the ability to provide a valuable service to our middle and elementary children."

Parents of middle and elementary school children will not be billed for meals eaten during the 2013-'14 school term. Whether or not this program can be continued beyond this school term will be determined later in the year. However, any lunch bill balance for previous school years will be collected by the school system.

"Feeding a child is paramount to student achievement," said West Virginia Schools Superintendent James Phares.
"We know that countless children in our state go to school each day hungry making it impossible for them to focus on school work. I applaud Jackson County Schools for deciding to participate in the CEO." The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released data reporting high levels of food insecurity and hunger across the country. In West Virginia, nearly 14 percent of residents are unsure where they will get their next meal and more than 88,500 children live below the poverty line.