Burlington, Winooski to offer free lunches for students this summer

School is out, but Burlington students can enjoy free breakfast, lunch and snacks all summer long.

The Burlington Schools Food Project will begin its program to provide low-income children of Burlington free meals beginning Monday.

“I see the program as really filling an important need in the summer,” said Amanda Caron, child nutrition advocate for Hunger Free Vermont, which is a partner of the program.

Caron said the program keeps children healthy during the summer months when school meals are not available. She said the program also engages students in other educational and physical activities, preparing them for the transition back to school.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which is designed to provide food for low-income children during the summer months. Children under the age of 18 are eligible for the free meals.

Caron said the percentage of children who rely on summer meal assistance has been inching up in Vermont.

According to the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program’s guidelines, meal service sites are eligible for reimbursement if 50 percent of the children in the area are low income as measured by 2007-2011 American Community Survey census data.

Caron said the Burlington School District became eligible for the free meals reimbursement program in 2012, even though it had been offering similar programs previously. She said Winooski is also eligible and provides a similar service.

According to USDA’s data on the Summer Food Service Program, the total reimbursements for summer meals programs in Vermont was $869,246 in 2012, up from $326,475 in 2008.

Caron said last year, the Burlington-based program served 51,774 meals, costing $131,399, which was reimbursed by the USDA.

There are other similar summer meals programs throughout the state. However, Caron said programs have trouble in rural locations because it is harder to get children together at a remote meal site.

Also, Caron said many schools have to work with tighter budgets, which makes it difficult to staff sites during the summer. She said many locations depend on money from other activities that is used to supplement the meal service.

“We’re definitely seeing some challenges and some threats,“ Caron said.

Eight sites in Burlington will participate in the program: Burlington High School; Edmunds School cafeteria; Hunt Middle School; C.P. Smith School; Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes; King Street Youth Center; Franklin Square Apartments; and Riverside Neighborhood.

John Herrick


  1. Philip Bottenhorn :

    When you have a child; Your first responsibly is to feed them.
    Parents who fail to feed their children are negligent.

  2. Jim Barrett :

    How nice that we as a state, community feel that the taxpayers should foot the bill for food during the off school months. It is billed as feeding the poor, does anyone know how POOR is defined and proven by the recipients?

  3. Eric Robichaud :

    I can only hope that the stay at home unemployed parents don’t get any ideas while there is quiet time at home.

  4. sandra bettis :

    well, i’m pretty sure only people who need it would use it – who wants to be labeled ‘low income’? and, besides, if you have one or two that abuse it, how is that compared to how the 1% abuses their wealth/power?

  5. David Black :

    Aren’t these children already on welfare, food stamps and other type of living expenses? How about finding their parents a job.

  6. rosemarie jackowski :

    Some of the comments here seem to be lacking in empathy. It is not always the fault of a mother if the family income is below the poverty line. Sometimes it would help if child support orders were enforced. (Many fathers are great at living up to their responsibility, but not all are.)

    Also, it is interesting to note that taxpayers pay for athletic programs in schools, but now some are complaining about giving kids food??? How can that be explained. Maybe sports programs should be financed by those who want them, and not included in school budgets. Maybe food is more important than football… especially if you are a hungry 7 year-old.

    • sandra bettis :

      and, actually, i think all kids should get free school lunch – there should not be a separation between the haves and the have nots – and taking sports out of the school budget would be a great way to pay for it!

    • Roy Skorstad :

      sure why not, lets take physical activity away in schools from our already obese population of children in this country, what an absurd comment..

      • sandra bettis :

        i’m pretty sure those obese kids aren’t playing organized sports. there are other kinds of physical activities you know that are, guess what….free! i’d rather see those obese kids getting at least one good nutritional meal.

  7. Eric Robichaud :


    Is it just sports that bother you or do you think ALL extracurricular activities should be “pay to play”? Do we turn all children into latch key kids? What happens when parents cannot afford these extra-curricular activities? You seem like another liberal who cannot think things all the way through!

    • Roy Skorstad :

      couldn’t have said it any better myself Eric, well said!

      • sandra bettis :

        maybe she is looking into the future – hungry kids vs optional competitive exclusionary expensive sports – hmmm, wonder which one i’d pick….

        • Eric Robichaud :

          How’s that war on poverty going? Surprisingly, in the past twenty years out of wedlock births have tripled and food stamp recipients have quadrupled.

          Running out of welfare benefits? Have another kid. Buy yourself another six years. People in poverty have 2.2 more children than people not in poverty! Gee, I wonder why.

          No liberal good deed goes unpunished!

  8. rosemarie jackowski :

    Eric… I was the mother of a ‘latch key’ kid. I was sole support of my family. We survived because I worked 3 jobs – usually 80 hours per week. I understand how difficult life can be.

    That is why I have so much empathy for all – including those struggling to avoid foreclosure on their homes.

    We need to find another way to finance schools. I don’t expect that will happen during my lifetime.

  9. Tanya Benosky :

    For those who don’t support this program … please realize that it supports kids. So, yes, ideally parents would lead healthy, productive, prosperous lives where such a program isn’t necessary. But, this isn’t always reality. There are many kids out there whose parents aren’t parenting. There are kids whose parents are part of the working poor. What are those kids to do ? Programs like this literally are lifesavers to these kids.

  10. Fred Woogmaster :

    This is a worthy effort and a valuable program.

    It is most unfortunate that such an “enlightened, superior” society causes good, decent people conflict about feeding innocent children who happened to have been born into difficult situations.

    Hold parents responsible and try to make them accountable? Certainly!

    Don’t feed innocent, hungry children to punish inadequate parents? Dreadful!

    Feed the children first! Then – fix the system.

  11. rosemarie jackowski :

    The bottom line is that children should always come first. There are moral reasons for this – children are the ones in our society who have the least power.

    Next, after children, should come low income folks who are trying desperately to hang on to their homes.

    We should think out of the box and try solving some problems creatively. For example…Vermont has a whole unused pool of workers – the elderly. Many would be happy to contribute their time – actually many are doing this. It does get complicated with insurance regulations etc. But why can’t retired folks volunteer as coaches and other leaders for after school programs?

    Right now there is a movement to set up a time bank in Bennington. This has been tried many times before and has always failed. Maybe this time it will succeed. Maybe giving ‘time’ to schools can be a win-win project?



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