This Issue Update newsletter is part of a series that provides more information on each priority issue on the Alliance's 2021 Legislative Agenda. The Legislative Agenda is crafted annually in partnership with early childhood organizations that are advancing legislative policy solutions related to health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education. The 11 priority issues were selected by the Alliance's 21 member Steering Committee.

Universal School Meals

Every student should have access to the same things while at school, whether it is educational opportunities or food. Right now, not every student has access to school breakfast and lunch. Instead, children are divided into categories based on income that determine how much they must pay to receive a meal at school. This means that many children do not get the good nutrition they need to learn well because their families cannot afford to pay for meals or because of the shame and stigma associated with being a “free lunch kid.”

The Alliance supports Hunger Free Vermont’s efforts to ensure that every student can eat at school every day, regardless of their caregiver’s ability to pay, by requiring all public schools in Vermont to provide universal school meals by 2025. When schools switch to a universal school meals model, more students of all incomes eat school meals, the social climate in the cafeteria and the entire school shifts as differences in family income become less visible, students are more ready to learn, and school administrators report more positive relationships with students’ families. By requiring all public schools to provide school meals as part of a student’s education, and by providing state funding to supplement the federal funding all schools receive, all students and schools will experience these benefits.  

This past week, Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed S.100, the “Farm Fresh School Meals for All” bill. S. 100 includes several provisions to support child food security and Vermont farmers. The bill includes language to support universal school meals by ensuring that within the next five years all public schools in Vermont offer school meals at no cost to all students. This bill also provides $1 million in one-time funding to school districts that may need equipment, training, or other support to successfully implement universal school meals programs, and an additional staff person at the Agency of Education to provide support to schools as they make the transition.

Continue reading for more information on this priority issue, including data and talking points, connections to the lead organization, and advocacy tools.


Data and Talking Points

  • Schools in Vermont are already providing free school meals to all students. As we recover from the pandemic, we cannot go back to the old model – that would mean taking school meals away from students who are getting them now. 
  • This bill gives schools five years to transition to universal meals and gives them access to grants and Agency of Education technical assistance to support this transition.
  • No student should learn what hunger feels like in school. Learning is the student’s responsibility – making sure they have what they need to learn is our responsibility. 
  • 42% of Vermont children in food-insecure households are not eligible for free school meals or 3SquaresVT. Universal school meals is key to ensuring they are able to eat nutritious food while at school.
  • Passing this bill would mean that 8 million more meals will be served each year, meaning that 24,000 more students would eat school breakfast and 19,000 more students would eat school lunch on an average day.

Lead Organization

Hunger Free Vermont

Hunger Free Vermont is an education and advocacy organization with the mission to end the injustice of hunger and malnutrition for all Vermonters.


Resources and Advocacy Tools


Get Involved

  • Tell your legislator about your commitment to universal school meals! Hunger Free Vermont is collecting letters, photographs with a short note, drawings and collages from parents, teachers, students, school staffers, and community members to send to Vermont legislators and share with them why school meals are important and what they mean for students, families, and schools across the state. Email their team to get signed up, and include the name of the school you are connected to or the town you live in. 
  • To learn more about universal school meals and how to advocate in the legislature, join us on March 10 for Early Childhood Day at the Legislature. Register now on the Alliance website – the deadline to register is today, March 5! 

Schedule an Advocacy Training

Schedule an Alliance training for a group of early childhood professionals, providers, parents, or employers interested in strengthening their advocacy skills or learning more about the issues on the Alliance’s Legislative Agenda. Be informed and ensure your voice is heard on issues impacting Vermont's young children and families!

To set up a training, email Matt Levin, Alliance Executive Director, at


Last Day to Register! – Early Childhood Day at the Legislature


The Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance is a statewide coalition formed in 2000 of early childhood professionals, parents, organizations, businesses, and strategic partners committed to improving public policies that impact young children between birth and age eight in the areas of health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education.

The Alliance crafts an annual Legislative Agenda in partnership with early childhood organizations, provides year-round advocacy support, and facilitates meaningful interactions with policymakers at key times during the decision making process.


15 State Street | Montpelier , Vermont 05602

The Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance is a program of the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

Follow Us

Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences