March 19, 2014

A champion for children

El Cabrero's Spousal Unit is a Spanish teacher. At one point, she was talking to students in WV's poorest county about the custom of a midday siesta or lunch/nap, a custom in many Spanish-speaking countries. She asked them whether they'd prefer to have a siesta or a regular school lunch period as is the custom here.

You might think the idea of a long break away from school would be the top choice, but it wasn't. The kids said they liked it the way it was done at their school, "because everybody gets to eat."

Whatever their other hardships, those children were fortunate enough to live in a county where the school system made feeding all children regardless of ability to pay a top priority.

It is sad but true that even in the 21st century, many children in West Virginia (and elsewhere of course) don't have basic food security, which is defined as existing "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life."

Obesity, by the way, an all too frequent occurrence here, doesn't disprove food insecurity. It often accompanies it. Cheap processed foods high in calories and fat and low in nutritional value often form the diet of the poor, especially of those living in "food deserts."

Here's something else to think about. During all the days when school was cancelled due to weather, many kids do without nutritious meals.

Still, WV has taken some strides in fighting this problem. In 2013, the legislature passed the Feed to Achieve Act, which ultimately aims to ensure that all schoolchildren in the state enjoy at least two free nutritious meals a day. That hasn't happened yet, although a great deal of progress has been made.

A big reason for that progress is that WV is blessed to have a real champion for children running the state Office of Child Nutrition. His name is Rick Goff and I'm proud to consider him to be a friend. He was profiled in this recent article in the Charleston Gazette.

Goff's counsel was heavily relied upon as state Senator John Unger and others crafted the Feed to Achieve Act. He is on fire to make sure that we end the "hunger games" in this state. And with people like him in the fight, we just might get there.

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