News Release — Hunger Free Vermont
April 30, 2014
Development & Marketing Director
Hunger Free Vermont
802.865.0255 | P
802.865.0266 | F
April 30, 2014 (South Burlington) – Over fifty Vermont schools serving high numbers of low-income students are eligible to use the new federal [or USDA’s] Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to provide school meals to all students free of charge—and without collecting applications—starting next school year. Statewide, 1 in 5 children live in families struggling to put enough nutritious food on their tables. In these schools eligible to use CEP, the number of food insecure children is closer to 3 in 5.
“The federal school meal programs are some of the best tools we have for reducing childhood hunger,” states Hunger Free Vermont’s Executive Director Marissa Parisi. “To provide access to school meals for every child who needs them and improve the health of all Vermont’s children, we must make school meals universal statewide, and community eligibility is a great start.”
Initial results from the eleven states that have been piloting community eligibility for the past two years show that it leads to more children participating in school meals. It particularly increases the number of students from all income levels eating school breakfast, an underutilized program that many Vermont schools have been working to expand. Now eligible schools in all fifty states can use community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year.
Community eligibility is available to schools where 40 percent or more of the students are approved for free school meals directly by a State Agency because they are part of families already qualified for 3SquaresVT (formerly known as food stamps) or Reach Up. Other students approved directly are those in foster care or Head Start, and those who are homeless or migrant. In most Vermont schools that meet this eligibility threshold, 60% – 80% of students qualify as low-income.
“Poverty and hunger, especially among young children, have been on the rise since the recession,” said Paul Cillo, Executive Director of Public Assets Institute. “We know children can’t do as well in school when they’re hungry, and we also know it’s sometimes difficult to get students to sign up for free school meals. This initiative can address both of these problems, and we hope many eligible schools sign up to participate in the coming school year.”
Following today’s announcement, eligible schools will have until June 30th to decide whether they will participate in community eligibility, but some are not waiting. The Winooski and Burlington school districts have already announced their intent to move most or all of their schools to universal meals next year. Troy Elementary School also plans to use CEP.
“Winooski is very excited about implementing the community eligibility provision because it has led to increased student participation in the pilot states,” says Superintendent Sean McMannon of Winooski. “In Winooski, over 80% of our students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. We know very clearly that food insecurity significantly impacts readiness to learn and many other facets of a student’s wellness. The community eligibility provision will allow us to provide nutritious breakfast and lunch to ALL students free of charge and eliminates the clerical efforts associated with school meal applications.”
“This is an exciting opportunity that schools in our state should seize,” says Laurie Colgan, the Director of Child Nutrition Programs for the Vermont Agency of Education. The Agency of Education is continuing to solicit data from other Vermont schools that may also be eligible to use CEP. For more information about community eligibility, contact Laurie Colgan, Director of Child Nutrition Programs for the Vermont Agency of Education at (802) 479-1187, or Anore Horton, Child Nutrition Advocacy Manager at Hunger Free Vermont, at (802) 865-0255.