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New Universal Meals Grant Included In Vermont Farm To School Program

Schools around the state can now submit an application for grants through the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program. This year, the program added a new grant that will help schools transition to a federal universal meal program.

The two federal programs, the Community Eligibility Programand Provision 2, reimburse schools that provide meals at no cost to students.

According to the request for proposals, eligible schools have a student population where at least 35 percent of students are "directly certified" — that means a student already qualifies for free meals without needing to fill out an application for free or reduced meals.

The school also needs show commitment toward applying to one of the two federal universal meal programs.

The reimbursement rate schools get is determined by the percentage of students who are directly certified.

For some schools, switching over a universal meals program has financially helped their meal programs, said Anore Horton, the nutrition initiatives director at Hunger Free Vermont. Some schools have reduced deficits in their meal programs and in some cases been able to buy more equipment and local food.

Schools that have fewer directly certified students might have a trickier time determining if the universal meals program make financial sense, Horton said.

The new grant would give funds to help schools determine if switching to the federal universal meals program was financially viable.

“It will help them to collect accurate data that will determine whether or not they're eligible and at what level they’re eligible for federal reimbursement under the program,” Horton said.

Up to five schools will get universal meals grants and each grant has a cap of $9,000.

The other two types of grants offered by the Farm to School Program are planning and implementation grants. Planning grants help schools start farm to school programs and implementation grants help schools maintain an existing programing. 

Grant applications are due by Oct. 28.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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