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Dr.. Michael G. Lechleiter: Comprehensive school meals help families meet rising food costs |

We’ve all seen the story of eggs—a dozen eggs are, at their cheapest, $5 more in Vermont stores right now.

For two out of five people who go hungry in our state, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The imminent end of emergency SNAP funds from the federal government, one of several forms of federal COVID-19 pandemic feeding support being withdrawn, means that about $6 million that sustains many of our neighbors — and many of our district’s students and their families, will leave an impossible hole to fill. .

All of this means it’s time to celebrate Vermont’s successes and continue working toward solidifying the supports we have now – such as Universal School Meals.

Passed as a one-year program during the 2022 legislative session, this year lawmakers are already working to make the program permanent, providing breakfast and lunch to Vermont students at no cost.

As the superintendent of the Harwood Unified Union School District in Washington County, I see firsthand the very real change that Global School meals have made in the lives of my students.

Many families in our area do not meet federal standards for free and reduced price lunch. Historically one of these families has had very high lunch debts every year. Both parents work and one parent has held multiple jobs to make ends meet. They have three children growing up who are hard working and caring kids in our schools. This has always been a sticking point for the relationship between school and family. It was heartbreaking for the cafeteria worker manning the register to tell his child that “your lunch account is in a negative position.” Parents would often talk to the principal and say “I forgot the check, I’ll bring it next week…”

The principals simply wanted all children to have a healthy, convenient lunch without feeling bad because their parents struggled to feed them while they were at school. Thanks to Universal School Meals for Vermont Kids, this is no longer a concern for children, families or principals.

Not only do Global School Meals benefit our students and their families, they have improved the experience for our school nutrition professionals. Global School Meals, along with the Buy Local incentive that has been in place for two years, allows school nutritionists to deepen and expand relationships with local food producers, cooking with the freshest, healthiest ingredients while simultaneously supporting our state’s agricultural economy.

Together we can make sure that no Vermont child goes hungry during the school day – and we can give them the opportunity to enjoy delicious, locally produced meals.

To join this work, visit www.universalschoolmealsvt.org.

Dr. Michael G. Lechletter, of Duxbury, is the Superintendent of Schools for the Harwood Unified Union School District.