Pandemic expansion of school lunch program appears slated to end

Vermont public school students got free meals throughout the pandemic thanks to federal aid, but Congress is ending that funding in June. Now, state lawmakers are debating whether to pick up the tab. The original measure has been pared down to only include universal breakfast, leaning on local farms and agriculture. Many lawmakers say there isn’t really a big disagreement over the merit of providing universal school meals, but the big sticking point is how to pay for it. Some estimates indicate the cost as high as $45 million and as low as $15 million. Secretary Dan French  said the Scott administration is trying to work with the Legislature but the issue and how it affects other educational programs is complex, and it also affects the Legislature’s education funding reforms. Lawmakers next week will consider the issue, including a proposal to provide two days of breakfast and lunch to every pre-k to 12th-grade student. The current federal waiver for school meals ends on June 30th.

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