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Free lunch for all coming to some Vt. schools - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Free lunch for all coming to some Vt. schools

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

By the time next school year rolls around, all of the students at Burlington High School will have access to free lunch.

"It is really vital for us to establish and maintain proper food access for kids," said Doug Davis, the director of food services.

Right now, BHS students can get free breakfast and dinner. And under a new federally funded program, lunch is being added to the list of offerings. BHS qualifies for the program because at least 40 percent of the students come from families with financial needs.

"The 40 percent of students who are directly certified come from the number of families receiving 3 Squares Vermont, families that have a foster child living with them, families who are receiving Reach Up benefits," Davis explained.

The state of Vermont reports 49 schools are currently eligible, including all schools in the Burlington School District, except for Champlain and Edmunds Elementary schools.

And because the program is federally funded through reimbursement, "None of the funding that goes into my program comes from the general fund budget. Nothing being discussed or voted on next week is going to impact our program. It is something we are able to fund through federal reimbursement and sales of food and beverages to students, families and adults," Davis said.

Davis says he anticipates an increase of 5-10 percent of students who will be utilizing the free lunch. Across the district, he says this comes out to about 400 extra meals per day. And it will cost the federal government around $3 per student. But he says you can’t put a cost on the benefits. The program will streamline the lunch process, eliminating the use of cash and PIN pads. And most importantly, it puts all students, regardless of their financial situation, on an equal playing field.

"The advantage that it gives to our low-income community is that fully eliminates any stigma for children coming through the lunch line," Davis said.

While 49 schools in the state are eligible for the program, it is unclear how many plan to implement it this fall.

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