Should Uber-Wealthy Coloradans Pay For Free School Meals For All Public School Kids?
Alexis Kenyon

For the past two years the federal government has funded universal free school meals at public schools nationwide. As the pandemic devastated millions of families, the federal government stepped in and waived fees for the school lunch programs

Ashley Wheeland, the director of Hunger-Free Colorado, says when schools started offering free meals to everyone, they realized just how many kids weren't being fed.

Ashley Wheeland

We saw so many more students participate this last year, and I think food is as important as any other resource in school like books. We shouldn't be differentiating out, at six years old, about who should be able to get a free meal and who shouldn't.

Alexis Kenyon

This school year Colorado students are returning to a pre-pandemic lunch program which means kids have to fill out paperwork proving their families make under the state's poverty threshold in order to qualify.

Wheeland says with inflation and cost of living, the threshold doesn't reflect need and that $100 per kid extra a month for school lunches, for thousands of families, it's more than they can afford.

Ashley Wheeland

It means, you know, paying the electric bill. It means paying for groceries at home. It means helping pay that rent or that mortgage. You know, it's so expensive. Housing in Colorado is soaring. The cost of it are soaring and then, you know, for a lot of those students, this is the only good meal they get a day.

Alexis Kenyon

Zander Kaschube, a kitchen manager at Jefferson County Schools and president of the Food Service Association at Jeffco, says he thinks reverting to the income qualified lunch system is a step backward.

Zander Kashube, Food Service Manager at Swanson Elementary

Clicks form because some kids are bringing all their food from home and some kids have to rely on the free food from school. There have been times in my school when certain groups or certain kids have been bullied.

Alexis Kenyon

Have you ever had to turn down a kid who wanted lunch and couldn't buy it?

Zander Kashube, Food Service Manager at Swanson Elementary

Yes. I'm, I have to. I'm, I'm told to. So yeah, that happens. It's not a rarity.

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