Colorado Just Approved Universal Free Lunch For Its Students

During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, universal school lunches were provided statewide, via the USDA. That means that every child, no matter the economic status of their caretakers, received lunch and breakfast free of charge. In 2022, that Covid-era initiative expired. According to Today, the end of nationwide lunch vouchers has left many wondering what will happen next. Free and reduced meals have always been and still are provided for low-income families, but the application for these programs can be a hurdle, especially for busy parents or immigrant families who do not speak English or are not aware of how to join the program. And with food inflation projected to continue well into 2023, the costs of packing or buying lunch every day will add up more now than ever before. 

According to Today, an estimated 10 million students no longer have access to free lunch since the initiative expired, which is a scary number when you consider the 5 million children living in food-insecure households in 2021. Parents are rightfully concerned, and this concern has led many states to vote on legislation to expand provisions to families and even vote on measures that would give free lunches to students, reports NPR.

Free lunch for all

States like California and Maine passed bills to ensure free lunches for all students in 2021, per NPR. Colorado added Prop FF to the November 8 midterm election ballot for 2022. Prop FF or, Healthy School Meals for All, was written by a coalition of parents, teachers, and anti-hunger advocates in partnership with legislators.

Like any piece of legislation, there were those opposed. Some said that it would be too expensive and unnecessary since free and reduced lunch are already offered to low-income families, writes Independence Institute. However, for families whose income falls just above the cut-off for free or reduced-price school meals, it's a challenge, reports NPR

Despite criticism, Colorado approved the universal free lunch bill on November 8. The bill intends to raise $100 million a year by increasing taxes on the state's richest residents — those who make over $300,000 a year. Colorado is the sixth state to adopt some type of legislation for universal school lunches, according to The Takeout. This approval is a huge win for the nearly 70,000 children who did not qualify for free or reduced school lunches but still cannot afford to buy lunch, according to CPR