Why 14 Rural Vermont Schools Are Losing Free Meals

Aug 14, 2019

Fourteen Vermont schools will lose their free lunch and breakfast programs when students return for classes this fall. But while the programs' sunsetting are ostensibly due to fewer kids living in poverty, child nutrition experts say many of those students still face food insecurity and uncertainty about their next meal.

It all has to do with a federal initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Community Eligibility Program, which came to more than 50 Vermont schools in 2014.

The program allows all students at a school to receive free meals. Last year, 63 schools took advantage of CEP.

The program has complicated metrics for funding, reimbursements for meal costs and certification. Details can be found at the USDA's explanation for CEP.

Tim Morgan, a child nutrition initiatives specialist at Hunger Free Vermont, joins Vermont Edition to talk about how and where the disappearance of CEP is being felt in Vermont, what it means for the affected students and food insecurity in these communities. 

Additional reporting on how the loss of CEP is affecting Northeast Kingdom communities can be found in a two-part series (Part 1 | Part 2) by Caledonian Record reporter Amy Ash Nixon.

Broadcast live on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.