The first lady began her whirlwind tour in Dryden, where she visited Dryden Elementary School. She was there to tour classrooms during the after school supper and backpack distributions of the Virginia 365 Project to End Childhood Hunger in Southwest Virginia.
McAuliffe has worked to eliminate child hunger during her time as first lady of the commonwealth. She initiated the Virginia 365 Project, which provides food to children where they learn, live and play every day of the year.
The project uses new or existing USDA programs to ensure all students in participating schools receive three meals a day at no cost for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. In addition, children also receive a backpack of food for weekends and short school breaks. The program aims to decrease food insecurity, school absenteeism and behavioral problems while increasing academic performance.
“The Virginia 365 Project offers us the opportunity to ensure access to proper nutrition for our children three times a day, every day,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “Once the success of this model is proven, initiatives such as this one could be expanded across the state and the country. Projects of this magnitude are only successful through the hard work and dedication of those involved. I am so grateful to all the partner organizations, schools and families who have helped make the Virginia 365 Project a success in Southwest Virginia.”
Besides partnering with the first lady, the program also works with Feeding America Southwest Virginia, FeedMore, Share Our Strength, Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension.
McAuliffe then traveled to Gate City, where as a guest of the Scott County Democratic Committee, she spoke on behalf of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is running against former congressman Tom Perriello to be the Democratic nominee for governor.
The first lady ended her day in Bristol at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mountain Empire Dinner. She received the Rex Gearhart Youth Hunger Awareness Award during the event.