Photo Credit: Jeffco Public Schools
The U.S Census Bureau’s recent Household Pulse Survey shows hunger is pervasive across the state with 31% of Colorado households reporting that their children are not eating enough because food is unaffordable. When kids are hungry, their academic performance and long-term development is impacted.
During COVID, school meals were federally funded at no cost to all students, regardless of income levels, and Jefferson County Public Schools (Jeffco) saw a 30% increase in students accessing free school meals during this time. With the start of the 2022-23 school year, the COVID meal waivers expired leaving more than 60,000 Colorado students unable to afford school meals and not meeting eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price lunch. In Jeffco, 28% of the district’s 70,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“This is not acceptable,” said Marybeth Goodwin, program officer for Community First Foundation, the community foundation serving Jefferson County. “We knew we had to do something to help our students so they can focus on learning.” In response, Community First Foundation is giving a generous $500,000 grant to Jeffco Public Schools for the benefit of Food & Nutrition Services, allowing the district to provide meals at no cost to more than 1,000 students in our community for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year. Families qualifying for the free school meals provided by this grant have been experiencing challenges in accessing nutritious meals for their children. They were not eligible for the National School Lunch and Breakfast program because they narrowly missed the federal income eligibility requirements.
Community First Foundation is a community foundation serving Jefferson County, committed to connecting people, ideas and nonprofits so that all of Jeffco is thriving. It is hard to thrive when you cannot meet your basic needs around access to nutritious and affordable food. Ensuring all students in Jeffco schools have access to free meals better ensures student success and relieves some stress for families struggling to make ends meet.
“We are grateful to Community First Foundation for their generous investment in Jeffco students,” said Jeffco Superintendent Tracy Dorland. “We know there are families that do not meet eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price meals and still need extra support to provide nutritious food to their students. 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.”
Community First Foundation supports efforts in Jeffco to increase access to nutritious and affordable food for Jeffco residents living on low incomes.
About Community First Foundation
Community First Foundation has been connecting donors and innovative Colorado nonprofits since 1975. As the community foundation serving Jefferson County, we are committed to connecting people, ideas and nonprofits so that all of Jeffco is thriving. We help donors with philanthropic planning, support nonprofits with grants and resources, and together, build resilient and connected communities. Our work is rooted in radical listening and a commitment to equity and inclusion.
About Jeffco Public Schools
Jeffco Public Schools (Jeffco) is located in Jefferson County, Colorado. It is the second largest school district in Colorado serving 69,000 students across 155 schools. With 14,000 employees, the district is the largest employer in Jefferson County and has provided educational excellence for more than 70 years. Jeffco embraces the spirit of the West and the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region with the county spanning more than 770 square miles running the length of the western edge of the Denver metropolitan area. The district is diverse in both population and geography, from urban to rural, including the mountain communities in the foothills west of Denver.