CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), at the request of Governor Jim Justice, continues to work with counties to shift to more efficient models to feed children during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. As the state moves from immediate nutritional triage to long-term distribution plans, Superintendent W. Clayton Burch reminds everyone that feeding students in need remains the top priority.
With the loss of employment, the COVID-19 outbreak has led families to rely more heavily on alternative food sources. School cafeterias, that are accustomed to feeding a defined number of children five days each week, are now being leaned upon by the greater community for food. As a result, counties are trying to keep up with growing demands which has been increasingly difficult.
The school closure period has been extended to April 20, 2020, and counties can forecast how to best transition to more sustainable plans for child nutrition. Local administrators have worked with the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition to tap into an extended network of resources. Starting the week of March 29, most counties will move to distributing multi-day meal boxes that will be replenished each week. These boxes will provide breakfast and lunch for five days (the extent of the regular school week) for children.
As some counties transition to the multi-day meal packs, food will be delivered on a staggered basis and counties will receive replenished supplies on different days of the week. If there are unmet needs during this transition, families should contact alternate community sites and food banks for support. County-by-county information is available by calling the United Way at 211.
“We have been able to identify vendors that will work within the federal reimbursement guidelines to take some of the burden off of county meal distribution systems,” said Superintendent W. Clayton Burch. “When done effectively, counties can utilize their workforce to support this effort which will only require employees to work a limited number of days during distribution periods.”
Using a drive thru, pick-up system will require only minimal contact with the general public. Families are reminded that they may receive larger boxes than they did previously, and they should be prepared to transport more items next week.
The WVDE has worked with state partners including the National Guard, the Division of Tourism, and the Department of Agriculture to develop more efficient methods to get food to counties. As has been the case, each county will coordinate meal distribution to families, and some counties may choose to continue their current feeding plans. Families should contact their county board of education offices for updates and with questions.