House Education Committee hears testimony on school meals

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont’s House Education Committee this week heard testimony around the Universal School Meals bill, S.100, which nonprofit Hunger Free Vermont has worked to advocate for within the state.

If voted into law, Vermont would become the third state to require school meals be provided at no cost to students’ families, after Maine and California.

The state’s schools would use a combination of federal and state funding to pay for meals.

For the past two years, a federal program afforded Universal School Meals in all Vermont schools. This waiver is set to expire in June. Should the S.100 bill not pass, local leaders would need to decide whether to charge families once again.

Earlier this week Karyl Kent, director of school nutrition for Lamoille North School District, provided testimony in favor of the bill, saying, “Universal School Meals allows us to focus on kids, not money. Time that would have been spent chasing delinquent bills and trying to get payments from families that cannot pay will instead be used procuring local foods, integrating cultural diversity into our menus, creating efficiencies in our production, and developing creative solutions to meeting the needs of our school communities.”

Statewide Campaigns Organizer for Education Justice for Rights and Democracy, Mia Schultz, echoed Kent’s view. She said, “In Vermont it is a constant struggle for all students to get equal resources and to be treated in an equitable manner, providing nutritious and locally sourced breakfasts and lunches is an easy and crucial way to ensure that all students are able to focus on school itself and not let hunger be a dangerous distraction for any child in Vermont.”

Two Maine Senators, Democrat Senate President Troy Jackson and Assistant Republican Leader Senator Matthew Pouliot, spoke to Vermont leaders via Zoom. Pouliot said the decision to provide free meals was a “no brainer,” since parents’ tax money funds schools and students are provided with other school day necessities including textbooks, desks, and more.

“Why should we not be providing to them a meal so they can make sure their brain is fully ready to digest, if you will, the information that we’re sharing with them in the public school system?” he asked.

The committee indicated that they will continue to work on the bill and hear testimony next week, including from several high school students. Full testimony transcripts can be found online at

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