Students in most of Randolph County's schools will eat for free this year after the Board of Education agreed to participate in the Community Eligibility Option.
"West Virginia is a pilot state of the program and each county can make the decision on whether or not they are going to participate," Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares said.
The free meals will be at all the county's elementary schools, along with the Alternative Learning Center, Pickens and Harman schools.
Randolph County Schools Director of Child Nutrition Lorrayne Corley said the program was enacted as a result of the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. She explained that it is an innovative universal free meal option designed to make it easier for families in low-income communities to receive meals.
"It is based on the school community area," she said. "If a percentage of students qualify as low income and if it is over 40 percent in the area, the school can qualify for universal free meals."
Corley said beginning in the upcoming school year students at the eligible schools will be able to eat breakfast and lunch at no cost to the parents. Corley said currently if a student eats lunch and breakfast at the school, it usually adds up to about $450 a year.
"We have several families where their income is low, but they do not qualify for free meals," she said. "This way all kids get to eat for free. It doesn't matter if you are a doctor or a ditch digger, they will eat for free."
Corley said parents with students at the participating schools will not have to fill out an application. The meals will be free beginning on the first day of school. She said parents with children at Elkins High School, Elkins Middle School and Tygarts Valley High/Middle School will still have to apply for free or reduced meals.
"This is going to make a direct impact on every child in those schools everyday," she said.
Corley said anyone with questions about the program should call her office at 304-636-9150 ext. 126.