§18-5D-2. Legislative findings; intent.

(a) The Legislature finds and declares that:

(1) Every child in school needs to have nutritious meals in order to achieve his or her potential. Providing the best schools and teachers alone does not ensure a child is mentally present and able to learn. A growing body of research establishes that a hungry child is less able to process the information provided and is less likely to be attentive to the lessons being taught.

(2) President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program in 1946 as a measure of national security to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food. Last year in West Virginia, 32.3 million school lunches were served to students in public schools.

(3) Research shows that healthy eating, proper nutrition and regular physical activity result in students who have: (A) Increased standardized achievement test scores; (B) improved attendance; (C) reduced tardiness; (D) improved academic, behavioral and emotional functioning; and (E) improved nutrition, and for many students, the nutritious breakfast at school is essential.

(4) Schools that provide universal breakfast programs also report: (A) Decreases in discipline and psychological problems; (B) decreases in visits to school nurses; (C) decreases in tardiness; (D) increases in student attentiveness; (E) increases in attendance; and (F) improved learning environments, and these positive attributes are furthered through comprehensive healthy schools policies that include quality nutrition, integrating physical activity during the school day, and teaching children about the importance of embracing a healthy active lifestyle.

(5) An effective school breakfast program is not an interruption of the school day; it is an integral and vital part of the school day.

(6) The participation rate for the school breakfast program varies greatly among our counties. Those counties which have made a determined effort to increase participation by offering programs to best meet student needs, such as Grab-And-Go Breakfasts, providing Breakfast in the Classroom or providing Breakfast After First Period, are feeding significantly higher percentages of their students.

(7) The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy reports that in 2011 more than 25 percent of the children in West Virginia lived in homes with a household income below the federal poverty line, which is $23,050 for a family of four. About 50 percent of West Virginia children live in homes with a household income below twice the federal poverty level, $46,100 for a family of four, which is approximately the level of the Work Force West Virginia self-sufficiency standard.

(8) The majority of students from families below the self-sufficiency standard are currently not eating breakfast at school. On the average school day during the 2011-2012 school year, less than half of the West Virginia students eligible for a federally funded free breakfast actually received one. On that same average day, only about one third of the students eligible to receive a reduced price breakfast actually received one.

(9) In order to maximize each child's potential to learn and develop, the Legislature, schools and communities must partner to provide the most basic support for learning: nutritious meals.

(10) In order to maximize student participation in school nutrition programs and to reduce the secondary adverse impacts of poverty, it is important that schools provide nutritious meals without a risk to students of being stigmatized as poor.

(11) High rates of childhood hunger and childhood obesity occur simultaneously because children are not receiving healthy, nutritious food. According to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health and others, in 2008 West Virginia ranked 44 in overall prevalence of childhood obesity, with 35.5 percent of children considered either overweight or obese.

(12) According to the 2008 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, which assesses weight status of children from low-income families participating in the Women, Infants and Children program, 28.3 percent of low income children age 2-5 are overweight or obese in West Virginia.

(13) The Food Research and Action Center has found that providing a balanced school breakfast may protect against childhood obesity. School breakfast participation, particularly when combined with comprehensive efforts that include regular physical activity and promote healthy eating habits, is associated with a lower body mass index, a lower probability of being overweight and lower probability of obesity, all of which help prevent a range of chronic diseases including Type II Diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

(14) Participation in federally funded meals in child care, preschool, school, or summer settings is associated with a lower body mass index among young, low income children.

(15) Private and nonprofit sectors have shown a willingness to commit significant resources to addressing hunger in America, leveraging federal programs and enlisting their employees, customers and clients to improve the availability and accessibility of affordable, healthy food for those in need of assistance.

(16) Public schools in this state and others are adopting a continuum of policies to implement low cost, effective programs that include physical activity, physical education, proper nutrition and the promotion of healthy eating habits, along with involvement by school staff, families and communities, and a variety of resources to assist schools in adopting and implementing these programs are easily accessible on the internet and through the Office of Healthy Schools in the West Virginia Department of Education.

(b) In order to maximize the economies of scale and to access all available federal funds to support our school nutrition programs, the Feed to Achieve initiative directs schools to make available and to promote the federally approved and subsidized meals to all pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students, to make them readily available and to consider reducing or eliminating the cost to students if sufficient funds become available.

(c) The Legislature intends to provide a framework for the State Board of Education and the county boards of education to provide, as effectively and as efficiently as possible, a minimum of two nutritious meals each school day to all students.

(d) The Legislature intends for the state and county boards of education to enter into public-private partnerships to eventually provide free nutritious meals for all pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade school children in West Virginia.

(e) The Legislature encourages county boards to examine the options available for comprehensive policies and programs to improve student health and promote academic achievement and to establish a comprehensive policy on healthy schools that best meets the needs of their student population.

(f) It is not the intention of the Legislature to allow or encourage parents to abdicate their parental responsibility related to providing healthy, nutritious meals for their children. However, it is the intent of the Legislature that no child be denied nutritious meals.

(g) It is the intent of the Legislature that healthy nutritious school lunches be made available to all students in a manner which maximizes participation and minimizes stigma attached to participating low income students.

Bill History For §18-5D-2