Students at Essex High School walked out of class Tuesday to call on Vermont Gov. Phil Scott to sign the universal school meal bill into law.
Earlier in May, the Vermont Legislature passed the bill with little difficulty, as the House of Representatives voted 122-25 in favor of it. The bill would continue to provide free meals to students through Vermont’s education fund, continuing a movement first started by the federal government during the pandemic.
However, Gov. Scott has not supported the bill, saying that since the state’s education fund is filled with property tax dollars, it would do little to help Vermont families.
“We’re taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other,” Scott said at the State House earlier this month. “It doesn’t make anything more affordable.”
But the students disagree, arguing that passing the bill would be a worthy investment. Some pointed out that families don’t always have the money to buy food, and say thousands of Vermonters rely on the universal school meal program.
“Vermont families like mine are reeling as inflation sends these expenses through the roof,” said Hailey Messier, a sophomore at Essex High School. “Offering free school meals to all students will help remove the stigma and shame felt by many students who do not have the luxury of paying for their own school meals.”
“With healthy brains and healthy bodies, students are more energized in class and engaged, and in my opinion that offsets the financial burden this will put on the state,” said Emma Renaud, a sophomore at Essex High School.
With Governor Scott’s veto session coming up in just under a month, the universal school lunch bill could be on the chopping block. But even if Scott vetoes it, the legislature is likely to override him, as the House provided 22 more votes than needed for an override when they sent the bill to his desk earlier this month.