If the bill is passed, public schools in Vermont will provide meals to each and every single one of their students irrespective of the child's ability to pay.
A Vermont lawmaker is looking to do away with the concept of lunch money by making the state the first in the U.S. to provide meals to all public school students. A bill filed by State Democratic Senator Debbie Ingram on January 7 aims to provide free breakfast and lunch to all public school students pre-K through 12th grade. If passed, public schools in Vermont will provide meals to each and every single one of their students irrespective of the child's ability to pay. Ingram stated that the proposal is intended to fill the "equity" and "need" gaps of families.
Ingram's bill comes at a time when the Trump administration's proposed changes to the food stamp program could potentially leave almost 500,000 children without access to free school lunches. "This is an equity issue. Treat food as the educational tool it is," Anore Horton, the executive director of the group Hunger Free Vermont, told NECN. If Senate bill S.223 passes and if the governor signs off, Vermont would be the first state in America to provide universal school meals, Horton and Ingram stated.
The Trump administration has acknowledged that its proposed changes to the food stamp program could leave nearly 500,000 children without access to free school lunches https://t.co/QATRNmytEc— CNN (@CNN) October 17, 2019
According to CNN, Horton revealed that while roughly 16,400 public school students in the state receive taxpayer-funded breakfast and lunch at the moment, the new proposal would increase this number to almost 89,000 students. Those in favor of the bill insist that it would good for public health, eliminate the embarrassment felt by children who cannot afford meals, and also boost student learning. "When students are hungry, they simply cannot concentrate on class activities or lessons," explained Don Tinney, the president of the Vermont NEA, and a longtime English teacher.
I wrote a piece explaining the history of #lunchshaming and why universal free school meals are the only solution. Private charity just won’t cut it and neither will piecemeal state-by-state anti lunch shaming laws. Check it out https://t.co/bTVSZKH2us— Jennifer E. Gaddis (@JenniferEGaddis) December 9, 2019
However, there are concerns about the cost-effectiveness of the program—it is estimated to cost roughly $4 million a year which, according to Ingram would come from the state's Education Fund. While she did not provide specific details on how funds would be diverted from Vermont's Education Fund to the meal program, Ingram admitted that the price tag has concerned some state lawmakers who worry about the burden it would place on taxpayers. However, she claims there's a lot of interest in the proposal already. "People do need to be convinced because the concern is the cost. We are being careful to not put too much of a burden on taxpayers," said Ingram.
This taco Tuesday, Vermont lawmakers are starting to talk about whether the state should be the first to universally provide kids with school meals—regardless of their ability to pay. #VT #vtpoli— Jack Thurston NBC 10 Boston (@JackNBCBoston) January 15, 2020
MORE, HERE>> https://t.co/tdd2X3PUh1 pic.twitter.com/n9QNIf0X1L
Meanwhile, according to the Vermont Tax Department, the state's Education Fund is largely supported by property taxes and Representative Marcia Martel (R-Waterford) is strongly against the idea of a subsequent increase in property taxes. "I want everybody to eat, but not at the expense of the property tax," said Martel. Ingram's bill is co-sponsored by one state Republican lawmaker and 2 other Democratic lawmakers. "We want to eliminate this last piece of inequity in ways we educate our students. Make sure no student has to know what hunger feels like at school. I am very confident that we will get to universal school meals in Vermont. Might not be this year, but we have strong support in Legislature," said Horton.