COLORADO SPRINGS — A campaign to pass the Healthy School Meals for All ballot kicked off with a coalition of anti-hunger groups, parents, students and teachers.

The campaign loudly stated, “Kids need food to learn, and no kid should go hungry because they can’t afford a nutritious meal.”

This November, Colorado voters will get the choice to support healthy school meals for all kids in public schools. Voters can ensure access to free, fresh, and scratch-made meals made with quality ingredients for all students; provide funding for schools to use healthy and nutritious ingredients instead of processed foods; give schools funding to purchase equipment and incentives to buy locally-produced ingredients from Colorado farmers and ranchers to use in school meals, and even support school cafeteria workers. The campaign hopes voters will vote YES for kids.

“Our coalition is so excited to kick off our Southern Colorado campaign as another school year begins; it’s an important day for Colorado families,” said Ashley Wheeland, Policy Director for Hunger Free Colorado. “We know we’re going to win because voters agree on these simple facts: One – kids need food to learn; and two – no child should go hungry because they can’t afford a nutritious meal. 

According to Wheeland, more than 60,000 kids in Colorado can’t afford school meals but don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Two out of every five Colorado families struggle to put food on the table for their children, Wheeland stated. She also cited studies that show how academic performance and long-term development suffer when kids go hungry. The Healthy School Meals for All initiative aims to give Colorado kids a better shot at success.

“Hunger is a barrier to learning that no just society should accept,” said Patience Kabwasa, “Food to Power” Executive Director.

Colorado districts alone saw 20 to 40 percent more children utilizing school meals when the state had federal funding to provide school meals for all, according to Kabwasa. She also added that more than 40 percent of Colorado families struggle to put healthy food on the table for their children even though they often work two or three jobs.

“With Healthy School Meals for All, we can break lunch line stigma for kids of lower social economic status,” said Chauncey Johnson, an anti-hunger community leader and former participant in the school meals program. “This initiative will also ensure that school cafeteria workers get paid fairly.”

Policy details: What Would Healthy School Meals for All do?

  • Provide access to free, nutritious school meals for all students in Colorado public schools by creating a statewide Healthy School Meals for All program. Any public school participating in the program will be fully reimbursed for providing free breakfasts and lunches to all students who need them. 
  • Support Colorado farmers and ranchers by reimbursing school districts for purchasing locally sourced food. School districts would be able to participate in a local procurement grant program to purchase food from farmers and ranchers to make healthy school meals. This will strengthen Colorado’s food systems, the economy, and student health, as per a press release.
  • Equip schools to prepare and serve healthy school meals. School districts would be able to receive grants for equipment upgrades and staff training to prepare healthy, from-scratch meals, and to provide pay increases for the frontline workers who prepare and serve meals for students. This will help schools that are struggling with staff shortages and provide more support for frontline workers and their families.
  • Get rid of arbitrary restrictions blocking meals for hungry kids. More than 60,000 Colorado kids can’t afford school meals but do not qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. For example, current laws consider a family of three that makes more than $29,939 per year “too rich” to qualify for free school meals.
  • Create a sustainable, long-term funding source to provide free school meals for all. This measure is funded by limiting state income tax deductions for the top three percent of Colorado income earners – people who make over $300,000 a year. If you do not make $300,000, your taxes will not be affected by this ballot measure, according to the campaign. This ballot measure affects state income taxes only for the top three percent of income earners. It does not affect federal taxes of any kind for any Colorado household, regardless of income.