(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Over a million Coloradans voted yes on Election Day to Proposition FF (Prop FF), which gives students in Colorado public schools free and healthy lunches, funded by a decrease in tax breaks for households making more than $300,000.

“I think Colorado voters understood the importance of access to food and healthy food,” said Ashley Wheeland, Director of Public Policy for Hunger Free Colorado. “And they also know the cost of living as well as inflation is really impacting a lot of families.”

The initiative was passing – 55% voting yes and 45% voting no – with over 100 business and non-profit organizations in support of Prop FF.

One Colorado Springs non-profit, Food to Power, said they are grateful and encouraged by Colorado voters.

“El Paso County won by 755 votes,” said Patience Kabwasa, Executive Director of Food to Power. “That means that every conversation, every door knock, absolutely mattered.”

 One of the goals of Prop FF is to ensure no child goes hungry because they cannot afford a nutritious meal.

“Because every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status or the school that they go to, deserves to have food to learn,” said Kabwasa.

Prop FF limits state income tax deductions on households that earn more than $300,000 or more to help fund these meals.

School districts will receive grants to help support purchasing local and nutritious-rich foods.

“Through this measure, we will be bolstering local Colorado economies as well as rural farmers and promoting and supporting scratch cooking and schools for healthier kids, healthier communities, just healthier people in general,” said Kabwasa.

Another organization in support of Prop FF is Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). The organization served as a statewide partner on Yes on FF.

“It’s a historic victory for kids in Colorado and it’s wonderful to have been a part of this movement to secure healthy meals for all students in Colorado public schools,” said Annalise Romoser, SCAN Advisor for State and Electoral Campaigns, Western Region. “It’s an incredible step forward for child nutrition. And we’re celebrating alongside all of our coalition partners and the wonderful advocates and volunteers who made this possible.”

School districts have the option to opt into the program for the 2023-2024 school year.

“So they’ll be more secure in their funding and know that they’re going to get those meals reimbursed so that they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to cover some of these families and their kid’s food when those families are struggling,” said Wheeland.

In response to the passing of Prop FF, Colorado Springs School District 11 issued a statement:

Students learn best when they are fed and not hungry. The Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education invested in students before the passage of proposition FF by allocating a portion of a fund balance to discretionary hot lunches. Any D11 student without lunch or means to obtain a hot lunch is offered food at no charge.   

Devra Kay, Chief Communications Officer, District 11

Pueblo County School District 70 also shared their support for Prop FF:

Pueblo School District 70 is extremely grateful to all of our voters who recognize the need for the vote in favor of this proposition. It is critically important that all of our students have access to free and healthy lunches. And we are forever grateful to them for recognizing that need and further they recognized the need for this to be passed.

Lynnette Bonfiglio, Public Information Officer, District 70

With the majority of votes tallied, Coloradans voted in favor of providing healthy meals for students and increasing support for rural farmers and local businesses.

“Families are struggling more than ever to put food on the table and having the ability to make one less worry, one less stress in a way that is also going to support local economies, support the school support role of farmers and bring those dollars back to Colorado is a win-win,” said Kabwasa.