Universal Free School Meals

Universal Free School Meals is a model that allows all students to eat school meals for free. This allows the school to build the meal program into the overall curriculum, creating a learning lab for healthy eating and a mealtime experience where every kid is equal and enjoys their meals together. Studies show that universal free school meal programs increase participation, leading to better student health and learning AND a strong school meals business. When participation is up, school meal programs have more resources to invest in even higher quality food, including local many local foods. Universal free school meals models are good for students, good for schools, and good for Vermont's local economy. 

Does your school have a high % of low-income students? You can feed ALL students at NO charge!

Improve Your Bottom Line

  • Eliminate unpaid student meal debts
  • Increased participation means lower per-plate costs
  • Less staff time spent on administration

Reduce Student Hunger & Improve Nutrition

  • No application means you reach all low-income students
  • No stigma means more low-income students choose to eat
  • All students have access to the same healthy meals

Serve Better Meals

  • Free up funds for buying fresh & local foods
  • Free up staff time for more scratch cooking

Options for implementing a Universal Free School Meals model

Provision 2:

This long-standing provision is available to any school for providing breakfast, lunch, or both at no charge. Reimbursement is based on the percentage of meals served in each category (free, reduced-price & full pay) at the time the school enrolls. 

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP):

This new provision provides breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge. Reimbursement is based on the percentage of categorically eligible students (children in households receiving 3SquaresVT or Reach Up, or children defined as foster, homeless or migrant or in Head Start).

Direct Certification List:

The new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is available as an option to provide universal meals at no charge to students in schools where 40% or more of enrolled students are directly certified for free school meals. Under CEP, the higher the percentage of directly certified students, the higher the reimbursement provided by USDA. This means it is more important than ever that every school’s direct certification list is accurate and complete. Use the guide linked below to find out more.