MCSD Whiteboard: Prop FF is a question about our kids and our future |

MCSD Whiteboard: Prop FF is a question about our kids and our future

Moffat County School District
MCSD Whiteboard

It’s hard these days to find much that everybody can agree on.

But one idea that shouldn’t be controversial no matter where someone stands on anything else, is that children deserve to eat.

At least, that’s the idea that drives Proposition FF, a measure on this November’s state ballot that would create a healthy school meal program that provides free school meals to all students in public schools.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Laura Mouriquand, food service director for Moffat County School District, the federal government made a similar program possible.

“USDA had COVID waivers that actually allowed us to feed children for free during the pandemic,” Mouriquand said. “We did grab-and-go meals, too, during the early days, where anybody under the age of 18 could come and get free meals during that time. It was really nice the last few years to be able to feed all children for free.”

Why do free meals for all matter? There are so many reasons. Here are a few.

  • It’s an investment in our children and their education. Hungry kids don’t learn as well as kids with full tummies. That also means it’s an investment in our community’s future.
  • It removes the stigma from kids who “qualify” for a free or reduced lunch. It’s not only the “poor kids” who get the free lunches — everyone’s eating the same food and getting it the same way.
  • It eliminates the assistance gap. Some households might not qualify based on the legislated requirements, but budgets stretch in different ways for different families. There’s a gap at the low end of non-qualification — which is a lower income than you’d think — that can mean kids are still hungry, even if their caregivers are considered by the state to be capable of paying for the food themselves. That’s not the kids’ fault.

“I really feel like the income cut-off for eligibility could be higher,” Mouriquand said. “We have working families here, where both parents work, and they’re right above the line, so their kids don’t qualify. Say a tire goes out on the family car. That family might have to decide between food and purchasing a tire. It’s really hard on working families. This would help.”

A family of four making more than $51,338 a year in household income is not qualified for free or reduced school lunches. For a family of two — maybe a single mom with one child, for example — that cut-off is $33,874.

“Every kid should be able to eat and not worry about payment,” Mouriquand said. “In our district, the kids don’t worry; we make sure that’s a conversation with parents. But kids should be able to come to school, relax and learn.”

Of course, as anyone knows, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. These kids and their parents might not have to pay for the meals, but somebody does. The mechanism for creating the funding for this program is through a reduction in income tax deduction amounts. So, yes, some folks will pay more on their taxes if this ballot measure passes.

The question is whether this is worth it. In Moffat County, residents pay taxes because they believe in this country and they want to defend it. They pay taxes because they believe in this community and they want to invest in it. They pay taxes because they believe in our children and they want to educate them. The question is if residents are willing to pay taxes to ensure all the community’s children are fed.

“This would really help a lot of households,” Mouriquand said of Prop FF. “It would be wonderful — such a blessing to have this done. So many in this community could benefit.”

A better-educated youth becomes a more-law-abiding, more-productive populace. A hungry kid is so, so much less likely to thrive in school. That means, simply, if Colorado doesn’t pay a little to feed its kids now, we’ll pay a lot more for it later.

“I’m really excited about this,” Mouriquand said. “It simplifies things and lets me do what I love, which is feed the kids. There’s so much about being able to get more local beef and other local producers into our lunches, and that’s exciting, but the bottom line is it’ll really help families in Moffat County.”

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