Summer can mean food insecurity for a number of West Virginia’s youth. This, combined with literacy-based learning activities, helps draw more than 3,000 children to West Virginia University Service”: and AmeriCorps’ Energy Express programs across the state.

Energy Express has 78 sites in 38 counties. The program provides six weeks of summer learning and nutrition opportunities to children in first through sixth grades.

Alicia Cassels, WVU Extension specialist and Energy Express director, says that this is a program where results can be seen from day one.

“From the first food we serve, we see kids getting a sense of security and a level of comfort that comes from a hot meal,” Cassels said. “At a time when so many families struggle to put food on the table, the nutrition aspect of the program is more important than ever.”

Last year, the program served more than 159,000 nutritious meals, providing both breakfast and lunch to participants.

The program also uses art-based learning activities to help children maintain or gain reading skills during the summer months when they’re most at risk for falling behind on reading. The program also provides each child with daily one-on-one reading help and a new book to take home each week.

“Owning a book is something we often take for granted,” Cassels said. “But when there aren’t any books at home to practice with, the children are less likely to try to learn.”

In 2011, nearly 21,000 take-home books were given to participating children throughout the state.

Entering its 19th year, Energy Express has a proven method, according to experts. Statistics show that the average Energy Express child has maintained or increased their broad reading achievement levels.

Under the direction of WVU Extension Service, approximately 500 college students serve as AmeriCorps mentors or community members. Mentors spend their days reading, writing and creating artwork with kids. Community coordinators recruit, train and supervise parent and community volunteers.
The AmeriCorps members will be sworn-in at a ceremony at West Virginia Wesleyan College on Monday, June 11. The event also serves as a kickoff the summer’s Energy Express programs.

Energy Express is one of WVU Extension Service’s premier programs, uniting children and community members to make summer a time for food, fun and learning in rural areas and for people in need.

In addition to WVU Extension Service and Volunteer West Virginia, other supporters include the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

For more information about Energy Express, visit, or call 304-293-3855.


cw 6/8/12

CONTACT: Cassie Waugh
voice: 304.293.8735, cell: 304.376.1829,

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