RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that 4.88 million more school breakfasts were served to Virginia students during the 2015-16 school year compared to the prior year, during a visit to Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School with First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and NBA All-Star, Charles Oakley.
In the 2015 legislative session, the McAuliffe administration worked to get $537,000 in funding for 244 schools to provide healthy breakfasts to students. As a result, funded schools saw a 13.6 percent increase in participation on average. To build on the amendment’s success, Governor McAuliffe worked with the General Assembly to provide over $2 million in additional support for breakfast program expansion in the 2016 session. The funding will again encourage the adoption of alternative service models that allow for breakfast consumption in the classroom, after the school day begins.
“When I first came into office, half of all Virginia students who rely on school meals missed out on breakfast each day,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at the announcement. “Dorothy and I knew that we had to work with schools and provide them with additional resources to help break down barriers to access. We simply can’t build the workforce we need to compete in the 21st century if tens of thousands of Virginia children are starting each school day with an empty stomach. I am so proud of the work the First Lady and so many others across the Commonwealth have done to achieve the milestone of nearly 5 million more school breakfasts served to students who will lead the way in the New Virginia economy.”
“We are excited that so many divisions have made expanding their school nutrition programs a high priority,” added Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “We cannot expect our students to reach their full potential if they do not have access to healthy, high-quality meals. Our students are counting on us to provide them with the resources they need to be successful, and our schools are fulfilling that critical obligation by adopting this innovative program.”
The Governor also announced the launch of the first Virginia Breakfast Challenge, an initiative of the No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign and several nonprofit and state partners. Schools that achieve the greatest increases in breakfast participation will be eligible for prizes to support school nutrition programs, teacher engagement, and infrastructure improvements.
The First Lady is championing the initiative as a way to encourage competition and garner the buy-in needed to make the transition to alternative breakfast models. “School breakfast is as key to student success as books and computers. With a nutritious breakfast, students can focus on their lessons, not on their stomachs,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “The Governor and I are encouraged with all the great progress that has been made towards a hunger-free Virginia, and we hope that all Virginia public schools will join the Virginia Breakfast Challenge to keep up the momentum and expand access for the thousands of Virginia students who go without breakfast each day.”
This school year, Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary will participate in the Virginia 365 Project to End Childhood Hunger. It will join eight other Richmond schools and ten Southwest Virginia schools in the $8.8 million USDA demonstration grant, which provides three meals each school day, food backpacks for the weekend, Summer EBT benefits, and nutrition education classes at no cost to students or their families.
“We recognize that good nutrition is essential to a quality education for our city’s children,” said Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden. “We are excited about the Virginia 365 Project as an opportunity to further support our families. Richmond schools will continue to fight childhood hunger by expanding access to healthy food choices throughout the year.”
To learn more and to sign your school up for the challenge, visit http://vabreakfast.org.