"It's basically a change of thinking. It doesn't take any extra money besides small fees for things like coolers. A lot of schools don't need anything to make this work, except to take the time to change the schedule and work with cooks," she said.
"This is something we've been pushing really hard in the past year, and we will continue to. Some kids don't see that emphasis on a balanced breakfast at home, and this is their only chance to get it. It just works -- it's simple."
West Virginia also is one of only four states to participate in the Community Eligibility Option, which provides all students with free breakfast and lunch if at least 40 percent of the school's students are eligible for free meals.
A majority of the schools that have implemented the alternative breakfast programs have seen a substantial increase in participation rates, and at least one school in each county has implemented the program, Blower said.
Cedar Grove Elementary School in Kanawha County, for example, has doubled its breakfast participation rates since implementing the new option and has subsequently upped its school attendance rates, according to Diane Miller, the county's executive director for food and nutrition.
Miller said her county's focus with the program is to get it into more high schools.
"Our overall numbers haven't jumped significantly because our high schools are pretty low right now. We're making them a priority," she said. "Our elementary schools are seeing wonderful results. We're seeing a lot less trips to the school nurse for tummy aches. This is helping students sustain and concentrate longer."
Wilson said her experience at Elkins Middle might help other counties find a solution to prolonging the pattern of eating breakfast at a young age.
"As a parent, I can speak from my own experiences. My son was one of those kids who didn't want to eat first thing in the morning but was hungry by the time class started. Now, he's in high school and the grab-and-go program is implemented there, and he's used to it because of his experience last year," she said. "This is changing the course of kids' days and will become a permanent part of their life. It's the most important meal of the day."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.