Recently, I joined students and staff there for breakfast and was delighted to see the youngsters start their day with a delicious parfait along with cereal, juice, milk, fresh-baked muffins and sliced oranges. While balancing the tall plastic containers of fruit and granola parfait proved just a bit challenging for a few of the younger kids carrying breakfast trays to their tables at Piedmont Year-round Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia, the meal itself was exactly the type of healthy, well-balanced meal envisioned with the recent improvements to school meal standards issued by USDA.
Dr. Jorea Marple, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, joined me for breakfast at Piedmont Elementary. Dr. Marple and I discussed the fact that West Virginia was an early adopter of many of the new requirements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Since 1994, West Virginia has made health and wellness in schools a key part of the state’s goals and priorities. West Virginia knows that school meals matter. Children who eat a well-balanced breakfast and lunch perform better in the classroom and have lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness.
I am proud to call West Virginia my home state and even more proud that schools here have been working for years to offer healthier options for breakfast and lunch. At USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, we used current nutrition science to set the new standards for school meals. Now, we are working with schools to help them meet our requirements via training and technical assistance. Those schools that meet the standards will receive an additional 6 cents reimbursement per meal—the first real increase in 30 years.
To learn more about what USDA is doing to make the school day healthier, please visit our Healthier School Day web site.