- Courtesy Of The Windsor Central Supervisory Union
- Free student meals
Even after schools shuttered in March to avoid the coronavirus, free meals have been available for all students. That was scheduled to end in December.
But thanks to additional federal funding and local advocacy, Vermont kids under age 18 will have access to free meals through June of next year.
"We really believe that having access to nutritious, wholesome food is not a privilege; it's a right," said Rebecca Mitchell, the child nutrition initiatives manager at advocacy group Hunger Free Vermont. "Particularly during this pandemic, making sure that families don't have to worry about their kids having access to nutritious breakfast and lunch every day is super critical for the well-being of our communities and our state."
During the early stages of the pandemic through the summer, Vermont schools served 5.5 million meals, Mitchell said. Some districts offer breakfast, lunch and dinner; others provide weekend meals, too. They're available to kids in school, students learning remotely and those who are homeschooled.
More than 250 schools throughout the state have some sort of free meals program, and many use ingredients from local food producers, which means Vermont farmers benefit, as well.
In normal times, a family would have to prove eligibility for free school meals based on income, Mitchell said. But under the current program, every family is eligible.
"Because of the pandemic, at least one in four Vermonters are now food insecure, and there are so many households that are experiencing hunger or financial strain, perhaps for the first time," Mitchell said. "But even for families that don't feel like they're struggling financially, being able to pick up meals ... and have one less thing on your plate ... creates so much more space for parents and guardians to be there, socially and emotionally, for their kids."
For more information and to find meal sites, visit hungerfreevt.org.