DougCo schools face free lunch challenges

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) While Douglas County voters opposed the healthy meals for all school lunch program known as Proposition FF by a wide margin, the rest of the state mostly approved it. Now, the district must decide whether to opt into the program.

Districts must apply for federal aid through the Community Eligibility Provision program starting next year, and then ask the state to fill in any coverage gaps with Proposition FF money.

Superintendent Erin Kane acknowledged Proposition FF helps families who are on the edge of free lunch eligibility and reduces the stigma of receiving free lunches but said the district is still working through the potential implications of the measure.

“Potential challenges will include ensuring students have time to get lunch and eat, staffing needs, labor shortages, supply chain issues, and how the state will calculate at-risk funding if no longer using Free and Reduced Lunch applications,” she said.

The money raised by reducing state income tax deductions for residents earning $300,000 or more will also provide grants to cover wage stipends for school kitchen employees and buying food from local farmers. But that money isn’t available until 2024.

Free meals during the pandemic

The federal government reimbursed schools for meals during the first two years of the pandemic, allowing DCSD some experience serving more kids during meal times.

But that program expired at the end of the 2021 school year, and Proposition FF is more complex.

According to district communications officer Stacy Rader, DougCo schools won’t decide until the state legislature decides how to calculate at-risk funding if it does away with the Free and Reduced Lunch forms.

Douglas County opposition to Prop FF

It’s unclear why Douglas County voters opposed Proposition FF. The county also voted against two measures that would have increased teacher and staff pay and allowed for capital improvements and the building of three neighborhood schools.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, DougCo is home to four of the wealthiest zip codes in the state, and voters have been reluctant to approve anything that would increase their income or property taxes.

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I'm a reporter covering the Douglas County School District in Colorado.

Denver, CO

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