With the first day of the 2022-2023 school year just around the corner, parents and caregivers across Colorado have many things on their minds and to-do lists, from readjusting to school year schedules to the excitement of being reunited with previous classmates and meeting new ones. Something they shouldn’t have to think about? How, or even if, they will be able to ensure that their kids have access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the school day.
Food for Thought
When kids are well-fed, their physical, mental, and social well-being increase and families are able to build Parental Resilience and Social & Emotional Competence of Children, two of the Protective Factors that support the prevention of child maltreatment and set the foundation for kids and families to thrive.
During the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal waiver provided access to free school meals for all students, increasing participation in school meal programs by up to 20%. Its expiration prior to the upcoming school year will leave Colorado students whose families’ income is too high to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs–but not high enough to afford school meals–hungry or with school lunch debt. For families who do qualify, the expiration of the federal waiver means dealing with burdensome enrollment paperwork and the stigma that comes with participating in free or reduced-price lunch programs.
What’s on the table?
House Bill 22-1414 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students, a bill passed during this year’s state legislative session, refers a question to the November 2022 ballot for Colorado voters to decide whether to make access to free school meals for all students permanent in our state, starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
In addition to increasing the economic security of families and ensuring that all students are able to meaningfully engage in both the academic and social aspects of school, this measure would further strengthen Colorado families and communities by incentivizing the purchase of ingredients from local food systems, increasing wages for individuals employed by school meal programs and offering healthier meal options to students. If passed, the program would accomplish this by offering:
- An option to participate in a local procurement grant program that would provide schools with funds to purchase food from local farms and ranches.
- An option to participate in a grant program that would enable schools to increase pay for the staff who serve and prepare meals for students.
- Funding for equipment and training to provide students with healthier meals.
What can I do?
Here’s how you can support the efforts to make access to healthy school meals a reality for all Colorado students:
Vote YES on this November’s ballot question about providing school meals for all students.
- Make sure you’re ready to vote on this November’s ballot! In Colorado, you can REGISTER TO VOTE and vote in person up to 7 p.m. on Election Day, November 8th. In order to receive a ballot in the mail, the deadline to register to vote or update your registration is October 31.
- You can also sign up for BallotTrax – a system promoted by the Colorado Secretary of State that will allow you to track your ballot from sent to accepted. Sign up for BallotTrax here!
Engage in the Healthy School Meals for All Campaign’s official campaign launch events (Stay tuned to Illuminate Colorado’s social media channels for more details!)
- In-person in Denver on Thursday, August 11 at 10:30 a.m.
- Regional kick-off dates and details to come!
Sign up to actively participate in the Healthy School Meals for All coalition’s efforts to pass the ballot initiative in November.
What about the 2022-2023 school year?
If your family or a family you know needs support with accessing school meals during this upcoming school year, see below (click on the image to enlarge) or visit the USDA National School Lunch Program webpage for information about how to find out if you qualify for support with accessing school meals during the 2022-2023 school year.
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