Colorado Department of Education to direct implementation of free healthy school meals program at the start of 2023-2024 academic year


Boram Kim


The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) said on Monday it is training school districts on implementing the Healthy School Meals for All program this fall. CDE established the program after Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative in November, giving public school food authorities the option to participate and provide free healthy meals for its students. 


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To qualify for the program, districts must participate in the federal National School Lunch Program and/or the School Breakfast Program. Through the programs, school districts are reimbursed with federal funding for meals served that meet specific nutrition standards. 

CDE will continue to deliver training each month until the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. CDE posts weekly updates to resources and information related to the program online. 

The Colorado State Board of Education approved a notice in January on the development of the program’s rules. The public comment period will be open until the rulemaking hearing on March 8th. The program is expected to establish parent-student advisory committees across participating public schools to oversee the program and ensure that meals are healthy and appealing to all by the coming school year. 

“CDE is updating their school nutrition technology system to assist in the implementation of the new program as well as hiring new staff to oversee the program,” CDE said in a statement. “Districts will have the option to opt-in to the new program before the start of next school year.

The USDA has released proposed updates to the school nutrition standards. CDE will send these proposed changes out to all districts and encourage them to submit public comments by the deadline of April 10th.”

The Biden administration announced on Friday new nutrition standards for school meals, including reductions in sugar and salt content and a focus on whole-grain offerings. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture would pursue the new initiatives as well as support and enhance the health of American children through nutritious school meals.

“Our commitment to the school meal programs comes from a common goal we all share— keeping kids healthy and helping them reach their full potential,” Vilsack said.

“Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future.

We must all step up to support child health if we are to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases by 2030, in accordance with the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Strengthening school meals is one of the best ways we can achieve that goal.”