Vermont House passes Universal School Meals Act

In Vermont schools, all students could soon be getting free breakfast and lunch. On Monday, the House of Representatives followed the Senate in passing the Universal School Meals bill, which is estimated to cost $ 29 million. Those funds would come out of the state’s nearly $ 100 million education surplus. Throughout the pandemic, universal school meals have been funded by the federal government, but that program is set to end on June 30. This bill would extend the program for one year in Vermont and would fund free meals for all students regardless of need. ” Kids eat every day at school, often twice a day. And if we can reduce the stigma in the cafeteria, if we can have kids sitting around the table eating the same meal, not making any kind of judgment about who might be on what program or why they’re having that meal, we’re doing a good thing for kids mental health and we’re helping them be more prepared to learn, “said Rep. Erin Brady, (D) Williston.But even though most legislators support the program itself, there are competing interests when considering how to spend the surplus. “You know we’re looking at PCB, we’re doing testing, we don’t know the cost of the remediation, we’re looking at schools that need to be taken care of,” said Rep. Sarita Austin, (D) Colchester. “We have loss of learning that needs to be addressed, and so it’s very difficult that we need to take $ 29 million and put it towards universal meals when I don’t know the other priorities. And again I want to stress this is a wonderful program. ”Supporters of the bill want to collect as much data as possible during the pilot year to explore how the program could be implemented more permanently. If the bill doesn’t receive Gov. Phil Scott’s signature, students who qualify for free and reduced meals through the federal government will still receive those meals.It is unclear whether Scott will sign the bill into law.

In Vermont schools, all students could soon be getting free breakfast and lunch. On Monday, the House of Representatives followed the Senate in passing the Universal School Meals bill, which is estimated to cost $ 29 million. Those funds would come out of the state’s nearly $ 100 million education surplus.

Throughout the pandemic, universal school meals have been funded by the federal government, but that program is set to end on June 30. This bill would extend the program for one year in Vermont and would fund free meals for all students regardless of need.

“Kids eat every day at school, often twice a day. And if we can reduce the stigma in the cafeteria, if we can have kids sitting around the table eating the same meal, not making any kind of judgment about who might be on what program or why they’re having that meal, we’re doing a good thing for kids mental health and we’re helping them be more prepared to learn, “said Rep. Erin Brady, (D) Williston.

But even though most legislators support the program itself, there are competing interests when considering how to spend the surplus.

“You know we’re looking at PCB, we’re doing testing, we don’t know the cost of the remediation, we’re looking at schools that need to be taken care of,” said Rep. Sarita Austin, (D ) Colchester. “We have loss of learning that needs to be addressed, and so it’s very difficult that we need to take $ 29 million and put it towards universal meals when I don’t know the other priorities. And again I want to stress this is a wonderful program. ”

Supporters of the bill want to collect as much data as possible during the pilot year to explore how the program could be implemented more permanently.

If the bill doesn’t receive Gov. Phil Scott’s signature, students who qualify for free and reduced meals through the federal government will still receive those meals. It is unclear whether Scott will sign the bill into law.

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