Vermont Families Urged to “Fill the Form” by Oct. 1
The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) is encouraging all families with school-aged children to “Fill the Form,” by returning a request for information on household income by October 1, 2022. These data, collected by individual school districts and reported to the Agency, are used to administer Vermont’s new universal school meals program, as well as secure funding from the federal government for a broad range of education programs.
The specific methods for gathering this information vary by school, depending on its individual situation. Some schools are asking families to complete a Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) application, others are asking families to return a Household Income Form. Regardless of type of form, the intent is the same; the information is used to calculate district and school level data on household income. These data are used to provide free school meals for all students and qualify schools for federal funding for “Title” programs, afterschool and summer programs, broadband access, special education, and more.
“The form may be different school by school,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “But the goal is the same; feed students healthy, nutritious foods that support their learning, and provide critical federal funding to Vermont’s school districts for a broad range of programs.”
“Data on Free and Reduced-Price Lunch eligibility has long been the best way to measure student poverty rates in Vermont schools,” added French. “These rates are a critical part of calculating how much funding Vermont receives from the federal government for a wide variety of programs. Ensuring accurate data is essential; that’s why we’re asking all Vermont families to step up and do their part by returning this form.”
Families received the appropriate form from their school as part of their back-to-school paperwork this year. While many have already returned their paperwork; state officials are urging families who have not yet done so to fill the form by October 1, the deadline for schools to collect this data and report it to the AOE. School meal applications may also be submitted later in the school year if a household’s economic situation changes.
“We know that good nutrition throughout the school day is essential for successful learning, said Anore Horton, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont. “Universal meals programs ensure that all students have the opportunity for success, by reaching families who don’t or can’t complete the FRL application, and reducing the stigma associated with eating free school breakfast and lunch so all can participate. That’s one big reason why we’re asking all families to fill the form. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s the right thing to do for your community.”
In May 2022, Vermont implemented Universal School Meals for the 2022-2023 school year. This enables all schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of household income. Even though meals are now free to all students, schools still need to gather family income data, because it will help the state draw down the maximum federal dollars for school meals, which reduces the burden on Vermont taxpayers. Unlike in previous years, where families seeking free school meals completed a Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) application, all families now are being asked to complete the appropriate form, regardless of their income level and whether their students eats meals at school.
“Reliable, accurate data are an essential part of how we guarantee a 21stcentury education system focused on quality and equity,” said Deputy Secretary Heather Bouchey. “Family income data goes way beyond meals; it’s used by nearly every federal education program to provide the funding that Vermont school districts rely on. There are many reasons why we’re asking Vermonters to help out and return this form.”
The families who fill the form will complete one of two different documents, depending on what type of federal school meals program their school is participating in. In order to comply with Vermont’s new universal meals law, schools choose to participate either in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2. Both provisions are administered by the Agency of Education Child Nutrition Programs unit and funded and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Schools in the first or “base” year of Provision 2 are asking families to complete the USDA’s Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals (FRL).
- Schools that are participating in the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or are in Years 2-4 of Provision 2 , and schools that do not offer the National School Lunch Program are asking families to complete a Household Income Form (HIF), because the USDA does not allow these schools to collect FRL applications.
Schools are providing information, supports and resources directly to families. Families should contact their schools if they have questions.
For information about which schools are participating in which provision, see 2022-23 Meal Program and Form Type by Site Name.
For more information about income eligibility guidelines, direct certification and meal availability, please see the AOE Child Nutrition Programs Public Notice on Availability of Meals in Vermont.
About Hunger Free Vermont
Hunger Free Vermont is a statewide nonprofit organization that works with state agencies and community groups to develop sustainable hunger solutions. Since 1993 Hunger Free Vermont’s outreach programs and advocacy have substantially enhanced Vermont’s nutrition safety net and increased access to nutritious foods. hungerfreevt.org
About the Vermont Agency of Education
The Agency of Education implements state and federal laws, policies, and regulations to ensure all Vermont learners have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities. The Agency accomplishes this mission through the provision of its leadership, support, and oversight of Vermont’s public education system.
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