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Dig in: Mon Schools ready to serve up breakfast and lunch to hungry students

There have been more than a few times over these past several months that Brian Kiehl didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.

From the pandemic to supply-chain issues wrought by the war in Ukraine, the above was a literal concern for the nutrition director of Monongalia County schools.

Aug. 23 is the first day of school in the county, and Kiehl said school cafeterias across the district will be buzzing like recess.

Free breakfast and lunch will once again be served this year to all students regardless of income status, he said, but federal paperwork must be submitted — more on that.

Breakfast fare ranges from cereal favorites to egg burritos.

Lunch offerings will include everything from Tex-Mex favorites, to pasta, pulled pork and sides from French fries to fresh broccoli.

For information on specific dietary needs, call the district’s office of Child Nutrition at 304-291-9210, Ext. 1521.

“We realize kids rely on these meals,” Kiehl said. “They’re a comfort to them. And we want to get our cafeterias back to where they were.”

And growling bellies can often be heard here, due to food insecurity.

To be “food insecure” means you are literally not getting enough to eat to sustain yourself nutritionally. That makes it a clinical malady just as much as a socioeconomic one.

And West Virginia is a destination for food insecurity.

The condition is prevalent in the downtrodden counties in the southern coalfields and even in relatively prosperous Mon County.

As many as 1 in 5 children across the Mountain State go to bed with growling bellies, according to pre-pandemic numbers culled by Feeding America, the online nutrition watchdog group.

More than 2, 000 children across Mon have been classified as food insecure, using those same numbers.

Both Kiehl and Deputy Schools Superintendent Donna Talerico said they appreciate the school district’s role in combating food insecurity.

Last year, the district produced a “Quarantine Cookbook” for charity, featuring more than 200 personal recipes from the people who crank out the meals for Mon’s school kids.

“School cooks are cooks, first,” Talerico said.  

Serving up the federal particulars

In the meantime, here are the aforementioned paperwork considerations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Household Free/Reduced applications are not required to receive free meals, but applications need to be filled out to collect household income data for other benefits, such as P-EB and internet access, which require this information.

In accordance with federal civil rights law, plus USDA civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA and any organizations or people taking part in its programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age.

The directive also takes in reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by the USDA.

Those with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information, such as Braille, large-print, audiotape or American Sign Language interpretation, should contact their local or state USDA office.

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form.

To request a copy of the complaint form, call 866-632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to the USDA federal offices.

The address is: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410.

Communication may also be faxed at 202-690-7442 ; or by email: program.intake

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