During the pandemic, the federal government provided free school meals to all K-12 students. Last session, the legislature provided funding to continue offering universal school meals in Vermont for the current school year.
The legislature must now determine the best path forward. Universal school meals offer many benefits, including more predictability for schools in meal planning and purchasing, less stigma surrounding school meals, and increased opportunities for partnerships with local farms, leading to the re-entry of dollars into Vermont’s economy. Several Vermont schools have applauded how the program has positively impacted health and behavioral outcomes and expanded nutrition and food education. If the state chooses to continue offering universal school meals, there will be new strategies in 2023 to access federal dollars in paying for the program—both through increased student participation and a new Medicaid eligibility criterion that automatically qualifies schools to receive more federal funds. To learn more, see H.165.
This program has received strong bi-partisan support over the years. Barre City had qualified for universal subsidized (or free) school meals owing to its’ median income for our community. We remain qualified.