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West Virginia District Demonstrates Healthy School Meals Progress

The transformation of Cabell County Schools’ Food Service Program hasn’t always been easy, but today, students are benefitting from healthy, well-balanced meals mostly made from scratch.

Here’s the scenario… Imagine you’re plugging along, making gradual improvements, and, suddenly, your city is named the “Unhealthiest City in America” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2008 report stated that half the population of Huntington, West Virginia was obese; the region tied other areas in the country for the percentage of residents who didn’t exercise at 31%; the number of people with heart disease was at 22%; and the number of those with diabetes was 13%.

"The state and district had recognized this health crisis," says Rhonda McCoy, Food Services Director for Cabell County Schools. "We had already implemented some of the most stringent nutrition standards in the country and were steadily improving our school meals." By 2010, nearly 50% of the district’s meals were prepared from scratch, using fresh ingredients.  

Cabell County student adding strawberries to his tray for lunch

"Our cooks have come together and have created many new recipes that the students love and that meet all nutrition standards," says McCoy. We're now preparing approximately 80% of our meals from scratch. We're also receiving improved products from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Donated Foods program as well working with local vendors and growers to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats for our meals."

And, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, the Cabell County Board of Education was able to approve free meals for all students by utilizing the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This program has greatly increased the number of students taking advantage of healthy, school meals.

Cabell County student enjoying lunch

Cabell County’s Food Service program has seen such a transformation that it has become a model for other programs statewide, with the district's cooks providing training on their recipes and processes. 

"We love our students and we are pleased to be offering them some of the best school meals in the country," says McCoy.