Editorial: Free meals meet real need
Here are a few numbers to remember: In Addison County, 20 program sites will serve free breakfasts and/or lunches in seven communities to more than 250 children five days a week for just the program in Middlebury. Statewide, more than 7,800 children consume free-or reduced-priced meals. It’s a summer substitute for the free meals programs offered at our schools throughout the academic year.
It’s a terrific program for two reasons: it relieves financial stress for far more families than you might think, and it does so in a way that doesn’t cause those receiving the meals to feel ashamed or awkward. That’s so because the program, operated under the United States Department of Agriculture, stipulates that a free meals site can be located in a low-income area where at least 50 percent or more of all of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. The site is then free to all of the children in the community, regardless of household income level.
In Addison County, Vergennes is home this summer to six free meal sites, Bristol has five, Starksboro has three, Middlebury has three, and there are one each in Leicester, Bridport and Shoreham. An estimated 7,800 Vermont children consume free summer meals at sites throughout the state.
The good news, of course, is that the program exists, as is noted by reporter John Flowers in today’s issue on Page 1A. The shocking news is that the need is there, and the need — for many — is real.
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