Denver, CO

Denver school lunches may get $1 million makeover

David Heitz
Sharon Pittaway/Unsplash

School lunches in Denver public schools may get a million-dollar makeover if the City Council votes Monday to grant the money.

The council is considering donating $1 million to School District No. 1. The money would be used to “increase the number of daily lunches served to Denver Public School students, improve the quality of meals made at school and train all 850 kitchen employees and managers basic culinary skills,” according to a city staff report.

The money would be used through July 31, 2022, by the Food and Nutrition Services department of Denver public schools. Part of the money would be used to build a greenhouse where students would grow fresh produce for the lunchrooms. The greenhouse also would be used for classroom space.

The council is set to award several grants Monday as part of the Healthy Food for Denver Kids Initiative. Voters approved a measure in 2018 to funnel money for healthy food for Denver children.

Healthy Food for Denver Kids serves at-risk youth

“The Healthy Food for Denver’s Kids Initiative (Ordinance 302) proposed to increase taxes to establish a fund for healthy food and food-based education for Denver’s youth,” according to city staff reports. “The ballot measure was approved by voters in November 2018 and went into effect in January 2019. The 0.08 percent increase in sales and use tax within the City and County of Denver is expected to generate approximately $11 million dollars annually for ten years.”

The money will be spent primarily on food for low-income and at-risk youth. Funding decisions will be made by a commission made up of non-profit, government, and community member volunteer appointees.

The idea is to make sure at-risk youth have access to three healthy meals per day, year-round.

The money pays for “hands-on experiential education and public health programs about farming, gardening, cooking, home economics, nutrition and healthy eating,” according to the staff report. “Preferential procurement of food from Colorado farms, ranches, and food manufacturers” will be given. Organizations must conduct most of their activities within the City and County of Denver.

Other organizations get grants, too

Grants expected to be approved Monday as part of the Healthy Food for Denver Kids Initiative also include:

· A $303,660 grant to Denver Food Rescue “to operate the No Cost Grocery Programs for free at approximately 20 locations,” according to the city staff report.

· A $299,000 grant to Montebello Organizing Committee for “educational programs about food and nutrition, grow healthy food at Montbello Urban Farm at 4879 Crown Blvd. and provide youth with food boxes and meals through the Struggle of Love food pantry,” the city staff report states.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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