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Colorado voters approve free school meals for K-12 students

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- It’s looking like next school year, children in Colorado will receive free lunch every day at school. Unofficial 2022 Election results show proposition FF passing easily with 55 percent of the vote, creating the Healthy School Meals For All program.

Starting next school year, K-12 kids will receive free lunch, and Coloradans making more than $300,000 a year will be footing the bill.

The ballot measure reduces state income tax deduction amounts for those earning $300,000 or more from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers.

The campaign's success is thanks to groups like Food to Power in Colorado Springs.

The local nonprofit held focus groups, hosted canvassing events, and door knocked in El Paso County to make sure residents understood Proposition FF.

"We just went to Colorado voters and asked them to de-stigmatize school meals, and make sure that healthy school meals were available to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” said Patience Kabwasa, Executive Director of Food to Power.

All those efforts paid off.

Proposition FF passed in Colorado with 55 percent of the vote. But it was a much closer race with El Paso County voters, only passing there by about 500 votes.

Food to Power says even those who voted no, will benefit economically.

"There's provisions in there to procure locally," said Kabwasa. "So where we're purchasing out of state now, districts will have the opportunity to purchase from rural Colorado and local farmers, which is going to also bleed into how we are able to hire frontline nutritional staff in our communities. So the moneys that are being utilized in order to make this a possibility, will actually circulate here in our state."

Food to Power hopes ensuring all students have a healthy lunch will cultivate even stronger students in Colorado.

"The term 'hangry' is around for a reason, right? We all know that when we are hungry, we don't always show up our best, we're not on our A-game," said Kabwasa. "You know, the kids need to eat to learn. Bottom line, all of us need to eat in order to be able to function. So they should not have to be negotiating with the lunch lady in line to access a fresh and hot meal. This ballot initiative makes sure that all students are able to receive a fresh hot meal in school during their school day so that it does bolster learning."

Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, school districts can opt into this program that will provide free school breakfast and lunch. Schools will be fully reimbursed for those meals.

With Proposition FF passing, state taxes will be increased by $100,727,820 annually.

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