As a new school year gets underway in Vermont, thousands of students are newly eligible to receive free lunches.
A law passed by the legislature provides students who previously received reduced price lunches with the free meals.
Under the old reduced lunch program meals cost 40 cents. Now that all students from income eligible families will receive free lunches, the state expects greater participation.
Laurie Colgan is Child Nutrition Program Director for the Agency of Education.
“While 40 cents doesn’t seem like much for many families, that 40 cents per student is a real struggle for them to provide," Colgan said.
Governor Peter Shumlin visited Barre Town Elementary School Tuesday to mark the start of the expanded free lunch program, which will cost the state about $400,000 annually.
Shumlin said Vermont is the first state to extend free lunches to those families eligible for the reduced price meals.
“I hope other Governors will follow us. It doesn’t make sense that we don’t make adequate nutrition available to every student that wants to learn."
Officials say 40 percent of Vermont’s school-aged children are eligible for the free lunch program, although many don’t participate.