By Anna Schwarz
Local and statewide data reveal that hunger is a real problem for many of Lamoille’s students. Fortunately, there are growing resources to help students who don’t get enough to eat, and state legislators are paying attention.
2017’s Vermont Youth Risk Behavior survey (YRBS) reveals that only 68% of Lamoille Union High School students say that they have never gone “hungry because there was not enough food at home in the last 30 days”.
The inverse of that statistic: 32% of Lamoille students have felt hungry in the last 30 days.
Free and reduced meals provided by schools, including LUHS, are one of the most obtainable food-insecurity solutions. According to data from the Vermont Agency of Education, 51% of Lamoille Union High School students are on free and reduced lunch plans, as opposed to the statewide number of 38%.
A recent grant from The Alchemist Opportunity Fund made it possible through a grant for Lamoille to provide a snack table outside of the guidance offices.
According to Lori Lisai, the school’s Innovation Coordinator, “our target audience is those people who are really struggling, who’ve come in without eating breakfast.”
That’s a lot of kids — the YRBS indicates that 11% of students in 2017 had not eaten breakfast at all in the last week at the time of the survey.
That’s no small number: Lamoille has an enrollment of 450: 11% of that is 50 students.
Karyl Kent, the district’s Director of Nutritional Services, agreed. “School meals are the foundation for education, and if kids are hungry, they’re not able to learn.”
“It’s really difficult to learn if you’re starving,” agreed Lisai.
According to Hunger Free Vermont, “83% of school staff agree universal free school meals make students more ready to learn”.
As well as ensuring students don’t “go hungry,” Hunger Free Vermont says that universal meal plans reduce stress, and prepare kids for a healthy learning environment that promises equitability.