The West Virginia Department of Education is expecting an increase in the number of students receiving free and reduced-priced meals.

Rick Goff, executive director of the Office of Child Nutrition, said "Our programs excel in poor economic times."

Currently 54 percent of the student population in the Mountain State qualifies for free or reduced price school meals.

In Calhoun County, at least 70% of the student population qualifies.

The state education office has direct certification for children whose families already receive other benefits like food stamps and welfare payments.

"Counties are identifying more of those children, which means more families have signed up or are receiving more food stamps or TANF benefits in West Virginia," Goff said.

Goff said there other areas where there tends to be a lot of layoffs, in addition to counties that have a high poverty rate.

He said the state Office of Child Nutrition will also make sure each student is given an application for free and reduced price meals when school begins next week. "Those benefits are good for one year regardless of whether the parents go back to work or not," Goff said.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reimburses the county school boards $2.60 for each meal served.

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