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New bill would put ‘School Meals for All’ on Colorado ballot

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A new Colorado ballot measure aims to provide school meals for free to students across the state, no matter what. This comes as a federal COVID-19 waiver providing free school meals for all students is set to end in June.

The expiration of that waiver will force schools to only serve free meals in high-poverty neighborhoods, reverting to how free school meals worked before the pandemic.

House Bill 22-1414 would change that.

Hunger Free Colorado is an advocate for HB 22-1414, known as Healthy Meals For All Public School Students.

According to the non-profit, the inflation for groceries adds pressure to many Colorado families already struggling to keep food on the table.

According to Hunger Free Colorado, providing students with a healthy breakfast and lunch makes them more attentive and engaged in the classroom, leading to better grades, higher attendance rates, and higher graduation rates.

“We estimate that this saves families $750 per child with kids being able to have school meals at school,” Ashley Wheeland, with Hunger Free Colorado said.

If approved, HB 22-1414 would raise $100 million per year to cover the costs of the program by taxing Coloradans making over $300,000 a year. 

Wheeland tells KRDO, that it is for that reason that her organization, Hunger Free Colorado, pushed for the ballot proposition so that children in need could continue receiving free meals at school.

“The best way to pay for this is to close tax loopholes on high-income earners then it would basically bring in the money needed to ensure every kid in Colorado to get the food they need to have to learn,” she said.

If voters approve the measure in November, the funding raised from that and provided to the schools for the free meals would go into effect for the 2023-24 school year.

“Inflation on our groceries which we are all seeing is up nine percent so families are trying to cover the cost of food even to eat at home," Wheeland said. "So this really takes that pressure off of them to make sure they get a meal in school. Sadly for some kids, this is the healthiest meal they will get.”

With only days left in the 2022 General Assembly, HB 22-1414 awaits consideration from legislators.

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Cindy Centofanti


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