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Our View: Definite ‘yes’ on Prop FF

Healthy School Meals for All meets need with local, fresh food

During the pandemic, one wake-up call came from our schools – we learned students were hungry.

When temporary pandemic aid made school meals free last year, Colorado school districts saw 20% to 40% more students participating, according to Hunger Free Colorado. The great need became obvious. And it’s common knowledge that children with full bellies learn better.

Proposition FF: Healthy School Meals for All not only provides breakfast and lunch for all public school students, it helps schools purchase high-quality nutritious food directly from Colorado farmers and rancher. Proposition FF makes sense for families and strengthens our rural Southwest economy.

Be sure to vote “yes” on Proposition FF.

Here’s an analogy for any doubters. All public school kids use textbooks at no cost to families. There’s no pay scale to determine who pays for books. Who gets a reduced price and who gets books for free. Every student receives books. School meals should be the same.

More than 60,000 kids in Colorado come from families that can’t afford school meals, but don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch. Currently, a family of three that earns more than $29,939 per year is over the threshold to qualify for free meals. Come on, now. We have families earning this amount and living in their cars. We can do better by our schoolchildren.

And it’s not just families below the threshold. The high cost of living in the Southwest means families choose where to spend their money. Going cheap on food with low-nutritional quality is one way families make it here.

Parents that can afford meals also have to make food choices. Proposition FF allows some ease for parents herding children out the door to school. Lunch – whether it’s lunch money or packing the lunch box – is one less thing to think about as our dollars don’t stretch as far these days.

The stigma and embarrassment that is a regular part of the school meals experience for children would go away, too. Some kids feel this so strongly, they actually skip free school meals.

So how to pay for this because “free” is never actually free. This ballot measure is funded by limiting state income tax deductions for the top 3% of Colorado income earners – those who make $300,000 per year or more. For residents who make less than this, their taxes would not be affected. Again, this measure affects only state income taxes for those high-earners, not federal taxes of any kind for any Colorado households, regardless of income.

This funding plan is reasonable. And very much worth it.

More good news. With Proposition FF, school districts would be eligible to receive grants for equipment upgrades and staff training to make meals from scratch. And if food is delicious, kids will eat it. Goodbye chili from cans! Grants could also provide pay increases for frontline workers, preparing meals for our schoolchildren. As it is now, it’s difficult to fill these positions.

Proposition FF allows for local, nutritious, fresh food for every child at school. Healthy School Meals for All is a conscious investment in our schoolchildren’s health, academic success and well-being. How could we say no?