Before Striking, West Virginia Teachers Made Sure Students Would Be Fed

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Facebook/AFT-West Virginia

Many West Virginia teachers paid for meals for hungry kids out of their own pockets

Teachers in West Virginia are currently striking, asking for higher wages and better benefits. In the state of West Virginia, one in four children are living in poverty, many of them rely on free or reduced-price school meals as their main meals of the day.

So the teachers were determined to make sure their students wouldn’t go hungry during the strike.

While the teachers’ strike led to all public schools in the state closing beginning last week, students have still been able to eat. At Beckley Elementary, school colleagues banded together to come up with solutions for providing meals to students. Teachers and faculty pitched in to purchase pizzas, fruit, and water.

Patrick Williams, a social worker at Beckley Elementary told TODAY that when they realized they had a lot of pizza leftover after handing out individual slices during regularly scheduled lunch hours, they decided to visit students at home to deliver the food.

“That was the coolest part of the situation, getting to go to them,” he said. “A couple of them were shocked at first.”

Teachers and faculty throughout the state all went out of their way to provide meals to hungry kids. Some schools had lunch-bagging sessions, others worked with local food pantries to drop off meals at students’ homes.

Jennifer Wood, a representative of the American Federation of Teachers, emphasized how many students depend on school breakfast and lunch as their consistent daily meals. “Our teachers wouldn’t feel comfortable if their students weren’t taken care of.”

It’s no wonder these teachers are striking — West Virginia teachers are some of the lowest paid teachers in the entire country. The state ranks 48 out of 50 in average teacher salaries by state, according to the National Education Association. Teachers haven’t received an “across-the-board” raise in four years, while rising healthcare costs mean some teachers and faculty members have seen their take-home pay decrease.

While a tentative settlement had been reached, it was brief. The strike is still technically ongoing for what appears to be an undetermined amount of time. One thing is for sure, though — Williams says students won’t have to fear going hungry if the teachers have anything to do with it.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if we had to do it again we would do it again.”