Free Meals for Students

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In Colorado, many families struggle to put food on the table, and sadly, 31% of households report that their children aren’t getting enough to eat due to the high cost of food. Unfortunately, this affected not only the kids’ health but also their academic performance and long-term development.  

When the COVID pandemic hit, school meals were funded by the federal government at no cost to all students, regardless of their income levels. This was a great relief for families struggling to provide nutritious meals for their children. In fact, Jefferson County Public Schools (Jeffco) saw a 30% increase in students accessing free school meals during this time. 

However, when the 2022-23 school year began, the COVID meal waivers expired, and more than 60,000 Colorado students were left unable to afford school meals. This affected many families who narrowly missed the federal income eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price lunch, including 28% of Jeffco’s 70,000 students. 

Colorado Gives Foundation (formerly Community First Foundation) recognized this problem and provided a $500,000 grant to Jeffco Public Schools. Thanks to this grant, Jeffco Public Schools is able to offer free meals to over 1,000 students who were not previously eligible for federal income-based food assistance for the rest of the school year. This is a huge relief for families who were struggling to make ends meet and ensure that their children get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. 

“We knew we had to do something to help our students so they can focus on learning,” said Marybeth Goodwin, program officer for Colorado Gives Foundation. “This is not acceptable.” 

We believe that access to healthy and affordable food is crucial for student success and the well-being of our community. With the help of Colorado Gives Foundation, we’re able to make a real difference in the lives of students and families in our community. 

“We are grateful to Community First Foundation for their generous investment in Jeffco students,” said Jeffco Superintendent Tracy Dorland. “This generous grant allows us to ensure more students have access to free meals, which ultimately allows them to be prepared to focus, learn, and thrive in school.”