Schools expand free lunch program

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(Host) At least two Vermont school districts have expanded their free lunch programs because they worry more families could go hungry this year.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) The poorest children already get free breakfasts and free lunches.

Kids from families who aren’t quite as poor have to pay some of the price – 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.

But not every child who qualifies takes advantage.

Doug Davis is the food service director with Burlington schools.

(Davis) “What we were finding here in Burlington is that a lot of those families don’t even have that 40 cents.”

(Sneyd) This year, Vermont decided families needed more help. The Legislature voted to eliminate distinctions among poor families. The state now pays for breakfasts for all children whose family income is less than 185 percent of poverty – or $40,000 for a family of four.

Burlington will get a share of that money, even though it already subsidized breakfast for its students.

Davis says the city decided to use the state assistance to pay the full cost of lunches, too.

(Davis) “When you’re looking at the economy today and fuel costs and the additional food costs that we’re all facing, it just seemed like the right thing to do in our community because of what we all see as increasing costs and just a higher level of pressure on families right now to make ends meet. And the amount of money that we’re receiving from the state almost entirely covers this project.”

(Sneyd) Essex worked with Burlington and adopted the same policy.

Davis says he expects free lunches will cost Burlington about $10,000.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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