DENVER (KDVR) — Should every student in Colorado be able to eat lunch at school for free? It’s a question voters in the state will be faced with in the November election.
While many may be behind the concept, some are not on board with how the meals will be paid for.
Some parents, teachers and advocates for ending hunger want free school lunches for every student to be a fixture in Colorado. Federal funding helped pay for school meals for students throughout the pandemic but many of the federal funding programs are ending this year.
“It’s so expensive to live in this state for them and for me,” said Genevieve Bassett, a teacher from Jefferson County. “Colorado families have been struggling to cover all of their costs and not having to worry about their child being hungry has helped.”
Making the meals free permanently in Colorado was an idea that started at the state Capitol this year but ultimately made its way to the ballot.
“The need for funding long term was a question that they had. So to be able to make it work, they felt like referring it with a new way to pay for it — extra dollars that voters can vote on — is a way to make sure that it lasts and it’s indefinite,” said Ashley Wheeland of Hunger Free Colorado.
School lunches would be funded by high-income earners
While the way the measure made it to the ballot was a bipartisan effort, there are some concerns about the funding for the school lunches. People making $300,000 or more a year would see a reduction in state tax breaks.
“You look at the charitable giving that could be impacted by this because the deduction goes down for people that make $300,000 or more,” said FOX31 Republican political analyst Michael Fields, director of the Advance Colorado Institute.
Fields said the potential impact on high earners’ charitable giving is his “biggest concern.”
“You know a lot of charitable giving helps with nonprofits, helping people. Are those programs more important than my kids, for example, getting a lunch when I know I can pay for it?” Fields said.
School districts would be able to buy local food to prepare school lunches using grant money. Students at Edgewater Elementary said they are excited about the possibility of other kids in the state getting fresh food like what’s growing in their garden.
Supporters say they did some polling and found many people are in favor of funding school lunches.
They are hoping high-income earners are willing to approve the deduction to feed more young people in the state.