JESPA represents approximately 3,800 Jeffco Public Schools’ Support Staff (ESP-Education Support Professionals). I’m writing to express our official support for SB22-087 Healthy Meals for all Public School Students sponsored by Senator Brittany Pettersen (D-Jeffco) and soon to be voted on by Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Jeffco).
At the onset of the pandemic and through 2020, Jeffco Public Schools made an unfortunate decision to shut down most school kitchens, even during a time when the USDA reimbursed schools for the free meals served, and during a high level of food insecurity in Jeffco. Given the size of JEFFCO (~778 square miles; 54 miles from Northern to Southern tip) this meant that many students lost access to school provided breakfast and lunch. Thankfully, through our work with our wonderful Jeffco community partners, which included Coloradans for the Common Good, we were able to get the district to open more kitchens, thereby reaching more students and providing some relief to area food banks that were stretched to their limits.
Since then, we have seen the benefits that healthy school meals provide to all our students, not only to free/reduced lunch students. Hungry kids can’t learn, and students’ physical and mental health improves when they aren’t worried about their next meal or facing stigma in a lunch line. School meals are as vital as teachers and textbooks. This is so important that, as a union, we have also presented a bargaining proposal so that our students have access to the healthy school meals they deserve.
We hope that all Jeffco legislators will support the Healthy School Meals for All bill.
Lara Center, JESPA President