Statewide, 60 percent of students come from families with incomes small enough to qualify for free or reduced price school meals. Only about 30 percent eat breakfast at school every day.
"The need is there," Goff said. "The hunger is there. But the meal is not readily available. Breakfast in public schools is at the worst possible time it could be, right at start up. Buses are arriving. The bell is ringing. Kids want to talk to their friends."
But schools that have made changes -- such as serving breakfast after first period or offering bags students can take with them -- saw a difference right away in attendance and behavior.
Students who eat breakfast at school have better attendance, fewer tardies, fewer behavioral problems, increased test scores and improved academic achievement, Goff said.
In Berkeley County, Tracy Heck, director of child nutrition and wellness, said Musselman High School started offering breakfast after first period last year. They went from feeding about 100 students a day to almost 700 a day. The principal there has commented that late breakfast is so popular she could never get rid of it. She would have a rebellion on her hands, Heck said.
Mingo's Keithley was one of several speakers at a webinar attended by about 100 people around the state carrying out the Feed to Achieve Act. "The first step is getting that sense of urgency out there," he said. In his county, 78.5 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged households.
"When you have parents or grandparents struggling to put a roof over their heads, trying to put a nutritious meal together on a very limited income can be very difficult. Not only that, but it might not be the highest priority."
Children of any income level are too young and impetuous to realize that they have one body, and it's important to take care of it. That's as it should be. That's why they have adults to put good choices in front them, and to set good examples to serve in years to come.
Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.