The Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act (Senate Bill 18-013), by Senators Rhonda Fields (D, Aurora) and Bob Gardner (R, Colorado Springs) and Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D, Commerce City) is a bill LiveWell’s policy team has been advocating for since last fall. The bill will increase state funding to cover the $0.40 that kids who receive reduced-price school lunches must pay in grades 6th through 8th.
In 2014, LiveWell participated in a coalition that successfully passed House Bill 14-1156, which provided state funding to cover the $0.40 reduced price school lunch for kids in 3rd through 5th grades (Pre-K through 2nd grade were previously funded in the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions). Ultimately, LiveWell supports the extension of the $0.40 reduced price school lunch to cover students through 12th grade. Senate Bill 18-013 is critical, as kids who are hungry do not learn well. Certainly, hunger does not end in 5th grade and pre-adolescence is a period of nutritional vulnerability; children in middle school require sufficient calories and a well-balanced diet for developmental growth. Schools in Colorado see a drop-off in the number of reduced-price lunches served between 5th and 6th grade, when the cost kicks back in and the lunch is no longer covered completely.
Eligibility for students to receive free or reduced-price lunch is based on family income. Schools provide free lunches to students in families earning $31,980 a year or less for a family of four, or about 130 percent of the federal poverty level or lower. Reduced-price lunches are offered to students in families of four earning between $31,980 and $45,510 (between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level). For the State of Colorado’s investment of 40 cents to cover the cost of each reduced-price meal, the federal government pays at least $2.89 toward the meal. This is a 7:1 return on the state’s investment.
Senate Bill 18-013 was heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, January 25th. We are pleased to report that the bill passed on a 5 – 2 vote to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The cost of the bill to the state is just over $564,000. This is a smart investment for the state and the right thing to do to ensure that more kids are fed and ready to learn each day at school.
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