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Free meals for ALL students starting this fall

posted Nov 23, 2015, 8:38 AM by Elaine Hulett
Every child attending Mt. Anthony Union Middle & High Schools; Prekindergarten at Molly & Division St.; and Shaftsbury, Woodford, Pownal, Monument, Bennington, and Molly Stark Elementary Schools can now eat complete, nutritious and reimbursable breakfast and lunch approved by the program for free.

The federal government’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is structured to provide funding for free meals for economically disadvantaged school districts. The SVSU has determined that all public schools within the SVSU qualify and will participate in the 2015-2016 school year program. Participating in the CEP program, allows the SVSU to receive federal reimbursement for up to 100 percent of meals served.

“Finally, the math makes sense. The entire SVSU community benefits from our participation in CEP. All families qualify for free meals. A family of four who paid for breakfast and lunch last year can experience a savings of $1,200 this year. That is real money families can use to relieve pressure off their personal finances or increase their purchasing power in our local economy. It truly is a win-win for everyone.” says SVSU Chief Financial Officer, Richard C. Pembroke, Jr., SFO.

Every family is welcome and encouraged to take advantage of this new program. Participation is not required as children can still come to school with a meal from home. Snacks, snack milks, ala carte or second meals will continue to be charged at the current rates.

“With improved food quality, efficient food distribution methods and increased staff, we are ready to respond to the expected increase in meal participation. Schools within the program have experienced a 10% to 40% increase in breakfast participation,” says Maureen O’Neil, Southern Vermont Food Service Director from the Abbey Group who is working closely with the SVSU to implement the new program.

Across all SVSU public schools, 2900 students will now have the opportunity to eat two complete, nutritious and reimbursable meals approved by the program every school day without the stigma of being different from other students. This alone is expected to increase meal participation.

“The potential of the CEP program is truly exciting,” says SVSU Superintendent, James R. Culkeen. “Schools already participating have reported an increase in student attentiveness, fewer reports of student hunger, fewer disciplinary referrals and fewer visits to the school nurse. All of these elements make a great recipe for student success and enables them to perform at their best.”