Students in Calhoun County Schools will have the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch at school at no cost when school opens.

The county is participating in a program called the Community Eligibility Option (CEO).

In West Virginia, nearly 14 percent of residents live in food insecure households and more than 88,500 children live below the poverty line.

"Feeding a child is paramount to student achievement," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. "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 Calhoun County Schools for deciding to participate in the CEO."

Calhoun County Schools expects to have all schools participate in the CEO. The program allows the school system to feed nearly 1100 students each day.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Roger Propst commented, "We are very excited about this program and what we believe will be its positive impact on the lives of our students. I echo Dr. Marple's comments on good nutrition and its effects on students' abilities to focus. I encourage all Calhoun parents to be sure their children participate in this program."

West Virginia is one of only four states to be selected to participate in the CEO for the 2012 to 2013 school year. The CEO allows the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to expand its Universal Free Meals pilot, which currently serves eight counties - Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Lincoln, Mason, McDowell and Mingo.

All have seen increases in the number of students eating breakfast and lunch this year because of this project.

Throughout the state, 35 of 54 eligible county school systems have decided to participate in the CEO.

Approximately 280 schools will participate reaching nearly 90,000 public school students.

Nineteen county school systems elected not to participate in the CEO for various reasons including cost, lack of county board approval, and inability to provide free meals to students outside of the eligible schools.

The CEO was enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and provides universal meal service to children in high poverty areas. This is the second year for the option.

The CEO is an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible students in high poverty Local Education Agencies (LEA).

If at least 40 percent of a school's students are directly certified for free meal benefits, the entire school qualifies for the option.

For more information contact Donnie Pitts, Director of Support School 304-354-7011, ext. 12

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