Legislative Wrap-up: School lunch

The Legislature passed a bill to make school lunch free for all low-income students and carved out $322,250 in the 2014 budget to pay for it.

Gov. Peter Shumlin identified this as a priority during his inaugural address in January: “While some low-income Vermont kids are eligible for free school lunch under federal guidelines, others have family incomes just high enough that they are forced to pony up cash they don’t have to eat lunch. We must fix this problem for the thousands of low-income Vermont students who can’t afford to pay for lunch.”

The free lunch program is available to families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty line. Families below that threshold already qualify for free lunch, paid for through federal funds.

In the 2011-2012 school year, 3,539 students — roughly 60 percent of those eligible in Vermont — received reduced-price lunches. School food service directors told lawmakers that many students don’t participate either because they don’t have the 40 cents or because they feel stigmatized.

Laurie Colgan, director of child nutrition programs for the Agency of Education, has said she expects the legislation will increase participation by 25 percent. That projection is based on the rise in school breakfast participation after Vermont passed a law in 2008 making breakfast free for reduced-price students.

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Alicia Freese

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  • Rick Battistoni

    When did we get to the point where a parent is not responsible for their children’s breakfast/lunch/dinner?

    • Louis Sullivan

      When we realized that some could not afford it.

      • Peter Everett

        Louis: Many families who cannot afford to purchase lunch are on assistance. No problem taking care of their children. My problem revolves around the family, on assistance, that has adults using the assistance to purchase items that are unconducive to an unhealthy lifestyle. A pack of smokes, booze, etc is purchased by many. You can’t deny this, it’s true.
        Why not have the state deduct, monthly, an amount equal to lunch costs from those who live an unhealthy lifestyle. Wouldn’t you rather the money go to “good” rather than “bad” that costs us all in the long run.

    • Dylan Gifford

      You should realize that hungry children need to be removed from a classroom environment because they negatively impact other children’s ability to learn with disruptive behavior. This behavior cannot be punished away, it exists because the hungry child is experiencing physical symptoms that prevent them from focusing on or participating in a lesson.

      So we have a choice, remove these children from the classroom, put them in “special” classes for hungry kids who will not learn much. Or we can feed them by taxing other people who know how to feed their kids, and “spread the wealth around” also known as socialism. We are choosing socialism because it’s the better choice.

      • Peter Everett

        Dylan: Since when is it a better choice for a hard working person to provide for the person that doesn’t want to work? I have no problem helping disabled or children. I do have a real problem supporting the Leisure Class, which sounds like you may be part of. I’m retired, fixed income, yet with every income, sales, gas, excise tax and combined state and federal fees (taxes) I’m paying close to 60%, leaving not a whole lot to put back into the economy. Socialism doesn’t work, as we will see when the people run out of money to fund the Socialists ideals. It’s time is closer than people realize. Why work, when Gov’t provides everything for you. I was born in the wrong generation. I worked for everything I ever got, often working full time PLUS 2 – 3 part time jobs. And, that’s with a Graduate degee and credits beyond. If I’m not correct, I’m hoping I’m long gone before the collapse. Wait a minute, no problem…painful, terminal illness (taxed to death). I can take advantage of “Death with Dignity” if it gets to that point. What a great country (state) we live in!!!

  • sandra bettis

    i think all school lunches should be free – if you don’t think all the kids know who gets free lunch, you are crazy. if you stigmatize a kid in school and separate the haves from the have nots at an early age, what chance do they have later?

    • Wendy Wilton

      I agree with Sandra. Last I knew some VT small schools do provide lunch for all students, which is laudable.