RICHMOND — Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a $935,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service that will provide approximately 9,000 students and their families in nine Richmond schools and eight Southwest Virginia school divisions with increased food security.
The award allows the Commonwealth to continue its Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for the Children Demonstration Project for a second year. The project is administered by the Virginia Department of Education in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services.
“As we work together to build the new Virginia economy, we must ensure that we are providing all of our students with the resources they need to succeed -- including access to nutritious meals,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This grant builds upon the First Lady’s tremendous work combating hunger in Virginia and will make it possible for even more students to become food secure.”
“Summer is a difficult time for food insecure families,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “Household budgets are stretched to the max when kids lose access to school meals. The continuation of the Summer EBT pilot will provide families with much-needed relief and demonstrate that new, innovative programs can move us toward ending childhood hunger once and for all.”
The participating school divisions in Southwest Virginia are Bristol, Buchanan County, Galax, Grayson County, Lee County, Scott County, Smyth County and Tazewell County. Families of students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals in these divisions, and in the participating Richmond schools, will receive $30 a month in benefits during the summer to improve food security.
The participating Richmond schools are Albert Hill Middle, Bellevue Elementary, Blackwell Elementary, J.E.B. Stuart Elementary, Miles Jones Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Overby-Sheppard Elementary, Thomas H. Henderson Middle, and Westover Hills Elementary.
“Although participation in summer feeding programs is increasing in Virginia, it is often difficult for families to travel to feeding sites due to lack of transportation or distance in rural areas,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “EBT benefits provide an efficient means for eligible children and families to increase their food security during the summer months.”
“These benefits will help families offset the free breakfasts and lunches children receive during the school year,” said Margaret Ross Schultze, VDSS Commissioner. “Children are able to maintain nutritional consistency year-round, which helps to mitigate a loss of learning over the summer, and better prepare them for school in the fall.”
Last summer, the food security demonstration project provided $878,000 in benefits to students and families in Richmond and the eight southwestern school divisions.
The summer food benefits program is a component of the Virginia 365 Project, which is led by First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. The VA 365 Project is the result of an $8.8 million grant received from USDA in 2015, which seeks to eliminate childhood hunger among school-aged children by ensuring that children have access to healthy meals daily, year-round. The Project does so by serving three meals a day to all children during the school year, providing food for weekends/school breaks through a backpack program and EBT cards during the summer months to eligible families.