West Virginia soon could become the first state to offer free breakfast and lunch to every student, regardless of income.
New legislation would set up foundations to collect public and private money to pay for those meals. One food policy expert was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying she was amazed by this program, which would take effect in 2015.
Officials hope the new law will improve the state’s educational ranking (47th, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation) as well as its residents’ health (29 percent of its high school students are obese), according to the story.
Research has shown a connection between eating breakfast and student performance; missing that meal can have a negative effect on students’ academics.
These are significant changes in a state where more than half of the schools are in rural areas. West Virginia also is a poor state; more than half of its students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
Still, the proposal has not been without critics. Some Republican lawmakers have said the free meals would send a bad message to kids, but Democrats said hungry students need to be fed, according to a story in The Charleston Gazette in Charleston, W. Va.
Lawmakers have passed the bill, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to sign it.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.