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.

To learn more about other policy issues LiveWell is currently engaging with or how you can get involved, click here.