Colorado voters will decide this November if they want to step in where the federal government is poised to step away and fund free school meals for all students starting the 2023-24 school year.
HB22-1414, which passed both chambers with bipartisan votes, will ask voters if they will limit tax deductions for higher-earning Coloradans to pay for the $100 million program. In turn, it will extend a pandemic-era program that ensured free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of ability to pay or if they’re registered for it.
Sponsor Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, called it a “special bill.”
“It’s all about feeding our kids, and I can’t think of a more noble thing we can do as a state than make sure we are feeding our kids a healthy meal for breakfast, for lunch,” Fields said before the 25-10 vote in the Senate.
Advocates said they saw as much as a 40% increase in participation in the school lunch program after the federal government made it free and universal at the start of the pandemic. Red tape for qualifications, the stigma of students being treated differently because they qualified for free lunch and students whose families were on the cusp, but nonetheless didn’t qualify, were all cited as reasons for increased participation.