Healthy School Meals for All launches its campaign

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: August 12, 2022

This past spring, the Colorado legislature passed HB22-1414 to send the creation of a Healthy School Meals for All program to voters on the November 2022 ballot. On Aug. 11, the Healthy School Meals for All campaign hosted a launch event at Edgewater Elementary School in Denver to celebrate the beginning of this critical campaign. This event featured multiple guest speakers, including a local farmer, a school kitchen manager from Jefferson County, and a student who shared his experience receiving free and reduced meals during the pandemic. Healthy School Meals for All has the opportunity to remodel our state’s school meal system for the better. The program will accomplish the following:  

  • Fully reimburse school districts for offering free breakfast and lunches to all students.  
  • Provide significant resources to school districts to purchase nutritious, fresh food from Colorado farmers and ranchers.  
  • Boost the pay of staff who prepare and serve the meals.  
  • Establish student and parent advisory committees to ensure meals are healthy, culturally relevant and appealing.  
  • Provide districts with the equipment and training needed to make nutritious, from-scratch meals, with minimal reliance on processed foods. 

Hundreds of thousands of students across Colorado return to their public schools this month, and the school meals program they have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic will look very different. Last year, every Colorado student could get a meal at no cost as part of a federal program for COVID-19 relief, but that program has now ended.  

While the free school meals for all students was in place, districts saw a 20-40% increase in the number of students participating in school meals – much higher than ever before. Kids were no longer regularly showing up to the classroom hungry, unable to focus and learn, and the stigma that often comes along with receiving free meals was largely eliminated. 

While the U.S. Congress’ passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act in June extended all federal waivers for free school meals during the summer and extended meal reimbursement rates through the 2022-23 school year, this policy adjusted the essential flexibility of the pandemic waivers – meaning that not all kids will continue receiving free meals. This year, we are back to the former, inequitable school meals model in Colorado. However, there is a critical opportunity to learn from these pandemic waivers, recognize their impact, and put in place a better system that ensures all Colorado students can access free, healthy meals starting in the 2023-24 school year.  

With the Healthy School Meals for All ballot measure, Colorado can fund an accessible, comprehensive school meal program by leveraging additional federal dollars and limiting state income tax deductions for households with more than $300,000 a year in adjusted gross income. This would ensure that the program is funded permanently.   

The Healthy School Meals for All initiative is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public schools for the better and make Colorado a national leader in investing in the health and well-being of our youth. We can ensure that all Colorado public school students have full access to the nutritious meals they need to learn, grow and thrive. The Children’s Campaign is a proud supporter of this ballot measure. Learn more about Healthy School Meals for All on their website. 

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About Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit www.coloradokids.org.