Voters appear to pass Proposition FF, which provides free school meals to all public school students

Lunchtime at DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School. March 22, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/CPR News
Lunchtime at DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School, March 22, 2022.

Colorado voters appear to have approved Proposition FF, a ballot measure to provide free meals for all public school students.

The measure had a comfortable 10-point lead — 55 percent to 45 percent according to the preliminary numbers as of Wednesday evening.

The new program will raise $100 million a year by raising taxes on the state's richest residents. Those making more than $300,000 annually will see their state tax deductions limited, increasing their taxable income.  

The vote comes after a federal program for universal free lunch started during the pandemic expired. That left states scrambling to restore funding.

“I believe every kid should eat, no matter what income their parents have,” said Maria Olvera, a voter and mother of a school-age daughter in Westminster, noting food is getting pretty expensive.

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Maria Olvera, of Westminster, voted in person at the Westminster City Park Recreation Center on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

“No kid should be left behind,” she said. 

“This is a massive victory for hungry children,” said Ashley Wheeland of Hunger Free Colorado.

Backers say nearly 70,000 Colorado kids can’t afford school meals but do not qualify for free or reduced-price school meals either. 

The measure will also fund pay increases for frontline school cafeteria workers, helping schools dealing with staff shortages and would incentivize schools to buy Colorado products. 

There was no organized opposition. But critics said the program was unnecessary and too expensive. Some questioned whether a tax increase, even on the highest earners, to fund free meals for all was needed, especially since low-income students will keep receiving free meals under current law.