Starting July 1, qualifying Colorado families can sign up to get free and reduced-price meals for the next school year.
Pandemic era waivers that allowed all school children to eat for free ended on June 30. President Joe Biden recently signed the Keep Kids Fed Act, which will help schools continue serving free lunches through the summer and will provide schools with extra funding for the 2022-2023 school year.
Thousands of children have relied on free summer meals in metro area districts including Denver, JeffCo, Douglas County and Aurora.
Yvonne Holland with Denver Public Schools said they’re serving both breakfast and lunch at 67 locations.
“If we didn’t have programs like this, kids would be hungry. We have a lot of parents that work that cannot cook meals during the day,” Holland said.
In DPS, free summer meals will continue through Aug. 12. Once school starts, many kids will have to start paying for lunches again. That’s why district officials are encouraging qualifying families to apply for free and reduced price lunches. The application period starts July 1.
Beth Wallace, director of food and nutrition for JeffCo Public Schools, said families will be receiving communications from the district about signing up.
To qualify for a free lunch in Colorado, a family of four must earn no more than $31,075 per year. For a reduced price lunch, it’s $56,338.
Many families who earn more than that still struggle to pay for food. That’s why advocates hope Colorado voters will pass a measure this fall to fund free meals for all kids. State lawmakers passed the Heathy Meals For All Public School Students bill, which will put the measure on the ballot in November of 2022. If passed, free meals wouldn’t begin until the 2023-2024 school year.
Longtime DPS kitchen manager Evon Torres knows how important school meals are to so many kids.
“Sometimes at lunch they let us know they’re still hungry," she said. "We do everything we can to make sure they’re filled up before they leave."