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Lt. Governor's Newsletter, January 31st, 2023 | Universal School Meals

Submitted by Lisa.Gerlach@v… on

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Hunger and food insecurity is a pervasive problem around Vermont. Right now, about 2 in 5 Vermonters are experiencing hunger. There are various and complex reasons for this, but much of it boils down to the fact that many people don't have enough money to cover their most basic needs. There are many programs and proposed pieces of legislation to help alleviate this problem, but today I want to focus on one of them: universal school meals.  

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been able to receive free school meals regardless of their family's income. This is due to federal waivers and the 1-year Universal School Meals Act that was passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2022. We have seen these past three years of universal school meals have had remarkable positive impacts for the children of Vermont, including:  

  • Removing the stigma around the school meal program  

  • Nourishing more students who would have otherwise gone without food  

  • Increasing student attentiveness   

  • Improved student, school, and community outcomes 


It's clear that providing breakfast and lunches for all students is a simple, effective, and achievable action that we can take to better the future of Vermont. Though the Universal School Meals Act ends this year, we have the opportunity to create a permanent school meal program funded through the Education Fund that will benefit all Vermonters.  


For some children, their school meal on Monday morning is the first meal they have eaten since Friday afternoon. No child should go hungry at school or at home. This is the reality that we face, and we can do something about it.  


You can get involved in the Universal School Meals campaign to hear updates about universal school meal legislation and learn about what you can do to advocate for all of Vermont's Children.  


As always, we encourage you to contact your legislators and the Governors' office on this issue or others that are important to you. 


Lt. Gov David Zuckerman 

P.S. If you have a story about how Universal school meals have affected you or what it means to you, you can use your voice to tell your story here. 


School meal


"I have seen a huge difference in my students' food insecurity levels since we have implemented Universal School Meals. Kids know that each day they will have access to two meals regardless of what is going on in their life. Keeping USM would mean that students would know that their basic needs are cared for, not just by their families, but by everyone!"

Colleen Devins, 1st grade teacher, Cambridge Elementary School



"Universal school meals have supported educators, parents, and most importantly, the students. Students with stressful homes have a sigh of relief when they see the breakfast cart or sign up for lunch each day, not having to worry or hear about the stress of the cost. Most of my class eats breakfast, and the time directly after breakfast and lunch are their most successful times of the day. It also allows for equity in conversation amongst students, there isn't a stigma attached to those who get school lunch and those who don't because more families are accessing it now. This also means that even students without trauma still have parents with stressors and sometimes packing a lunch can make all the difference in a family's morning send off for their kids. Teachers were always purchasing extra food or sharing their lunch with students who don't have food, this program has also supported us in being able to easily have any student-accessed meals whether it's because of money, time, tricky homes, or just forgetting their lunch box on the table. Universal Meals are a necessity for students, and help everyone involved in education."

Mallory Jones, 4/5 Teacher, Waterville Elementary School