Calhoun County is one of 14 WV counties that all schools in the county participate in a funded universal and free meal program for all children, kindergarten through grade 12, according to state officials.

Altogether, 39 counties have participated through the Feed to Achieve Act, with 13 counties, including Roane and Wood, deciding not to participate.

Some officials in those counties went on record opposing the program, essentially calling it yet another social welfare program, while others said the program was too expensive.

The program, according to officials, uses public and private resources, and has been widely successful, with more students eating breakfast and lunch.

Counties with high rates of poverty are eligible for free breakfast and lunch meals for all children.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says nearly 14 percent of West Virginians don't know where they'll get their next meal, and more than 88,500 children live in poverty.

Calhoun is a county where about one-third of all children are living in poverty, according to Kids Count, and about 70% of all students had been eligible for free or reduced meals using income guidelines.

Only three WV counties were not eligible for the program.

The program also promotes the use of healthier foods, including partnerships with local growers.

According to the Office of Child Nutrition, children eating school breakfast is now 45%, which had been stuck at 30%.

Research on children's nutrition showed that many WV children relied heavily on school nutrition, and several school systems say the implementation of the program is already indicating improvements in tardiness and academic outcome.

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