Expanding Universal School Meals for the Future of Vermont Children

PRS Briefs
Tuesday, February 28, 2023

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government funded Universal School Meals (USMs) nationwide. After seeing robust benefits for students and teachers, Vermont policymakers decided to continue this program at the state level for the 2022-23 school year. However, sustaining USMs comes at a cost. This report identifies the impacts and feasibility of extending USMs in Vermont and gives the Vermont House Committee on Education recommendations based on three state comparisons, three Vermont middle school focus groups, and a thorough cost analysis. The state comparisons are based on elite interviews with state nutritional directors and prominent non-profit organizations in
Nevada, Maine, and Vermont. The focus groups consist of teachers and staff members from three geographically and socioeconomically diverse middle schools in the state. Finally, the cost analysis builds on the original methods of the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO), but uses newly available data. After completing these three research components and taking into account recent federal rule changes, this report concludes there are feasible paths for the continuation of funding for USMs in Vermont.