NewsCovering Colorado


Proposition FF brings back free meals, provides for 60,000 local learners

The proposition provides funding for schools to purchase ingredients from Colorado farmers and ranchers.
Posted at 7:29 AM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 13:12:57-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — In November, Colorado voters passed Proposition FF, which will use taxpayer dollars to provide free breakfast and lunch to public school students beginning in the 2023 - 2024 school year.

While Colorado’s universal meals program is voluntary for school districts, nearly all have opted in. The new program will make Colorado one of only a handful of states to offer free school meals to all students by raising $100 million a year by increasing taxes on the state's richest residents. Those making more than $300,000 a year will see their state tax deductions limited, increasing their taxable income.

The growing push for free school meals comes after two school years when the federal government waived income eligibility requirements for subsidized meals. This allowed schools nationwide to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students for much of the pandemic. Those waivers ended last summer.

Sam Briggs, Director of Communication for Widefield School District 3, explained the change.

"During COVID and the pandemic We saw a 10 to 15% increase in students eating school lunch because it was free," said Briggs.

She expects a growing lunch line next school year.

"When kids go hungry, their academic performance, mood, and overall development suffer," said Briggs.

News5 met Widefield senior Takaya Lane, who is currently on the free and reduced lunch program. She has noticed some hardships in her peers.

"Sometimes it's the kids who pay that have problems. They owe but can't fill their account. They just want to eat. So, I'm really happy that they’re bringing free lunch back so no one has to go through that worry," said Lane.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, nearly 60,000 Colorado students cannot afford school meals but do not qualify for free or reduced-price school meals either.

Proposition FF provides the resources our schools need to prepare meals, from scratch, with healthy and nutritious ingredients. The proposition also provides funding for schools to purchase ingredients from Colorado farmers and ranchers.

Beginning in the 2024 - 2025 school year, the program will also provide grant funding to school meal providers to increase wages or provide stipends for employees who prepare and serve school meals. The money will also go towards training, equipment, and technical assistance, via a nonprofit organization, to help prepare healthy school meals.

Colorado School Nutrition Association Board public policy and legislative chair Erika Edwards said families will still be encouraged to fill out free and reduced lunch forms because, under Proposition FF, schools are still required to access as many federal dollars for meals as possible. Proposition FF simply makes up the difference for students who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch.


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