Written by Ann Cooper
As Founder and Chairman of the Chef Ann Foundation and as the former Director of Food Services for the Boulder Valley School District, I know the importance of access to healthy food for all children. It is about equity, nutrition and health for each person and especially for each individual child. Unfortunately, 12 percent of children in Boulder and Broomfield counties face food insecurity. For many in our society, the cost of living today means a balancing act of paying for fresh, healthy food or other needs.
This is why we need free and healthy school meals for all children; That is why I urge you to vote “yes” to proposal FF.
As a longtime anti-hunger campaigner based in Boulder, I was surprised that the editors of the Daily Camera liked the idea of ”Healthy School Meals for All” but failed to support the suggestion.
Proposition FF is a reasonable, comprehensive, and deeply researched effort to reduce child hunger in every community. Prop FF’s Healthy School Meals for All program contains several components.
By providing free meals to all children, the program will reduce the stigma that some children feel in the lunch line. Many children do not eat because of the shame their family suffers; No child should have to skip a meal because their family cannot pay for lunch.
The cost of each meal served to students will be reimbursed to school districts. And while paying for every meal will make things better for counties and families, it’s critical that we also make resources available to regions to focus on nutrition and employment.
Prop FF provides specific grant funding to counties to purchase local, healthy food from Colorado farmers and ranchers. More resources to do this would be a game changer for our schools and support for local small farmers.
It has funding for the counties to raise wages or provide salaries to workers for serving and preparing food. These are the workers who often get the lowest salaries, and the jobs that are often difficult to fill. This will help these workers afford to live in the communities they serve, and our areas across the state for their employment needs.
Finally, it has a county technical assistance grant to purchase equipment and train staff in nutrition and healthy cooking. These practices work; We used it to make the Boulder Unified School District one of the best school feeding programs in our state as well as nationally.
This proposal needs stable, long-term funding that school districts and children can count on. The financing mechanism will ensure this. It cuts tax cuts for the wealthiest Colorados, and it’s a reasonable way to ensure that money is available. More than 100 nonprofits, including The United Way, have endorsed Prop FF because they recognize that this is a good investment for all of us and will not affect 95% of taxpayers, yet will have a greater impact on child hunger than anything else. One program I can imagine. Passing the FF will create a durable, responsive and reasonable school meal program.
We can’t wait to get moving. Last year school meals were available to all students, and participation rates soared: More than 68,000 students ate lunch daily in Colorado. There is clearly a need. When the stigma is removed, and meals are free and freshly prepared with ingredients from local suppliers, kids will be healthier. Children will not feel hungry. Please join me in voting “yes” to proposal FF.
Ann Cooper is the founder of the Chef Ann Foundation. Cooper lives in Grand Junction.
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