The bill creates the healthy school meals for all program (program) in the department of education (department) to reimburse school food authorities for free meals provided to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal school meals programs. The program begins operating in the 2023-24 budget year, subject to the state being selected to participate in the federal demonstration project to use medicaid eligibility to identify students who are eligible for the federal school meals programs (demonstration project).
A school food authority that chooses to participate in the program (participating school food authority) must:
- Provide free meals to all students enrolled in the public schools that the participating school food authority serves;
- Provide to the department annual notice of participation; and
- Maximize the amount of federal reimbursement by participating in the federal community eligibility provision to identify students who are eligible for the federal school meals programs.
The amount of reimbursement distributed pursuant to the program is equal to the federal free reimbursement rate multiplied by the total number of meals served, minus any other federal or state reimbursement the school food authority receives for providing meals.
The bill requires the department to:
- Participate in the federal community eligibility provision for the state as a whole, if that option is available; and
- Apply to participate in the demonstration project.
Under the bill, a participating school food authority that creates a parent and student committee to advise on food purchasing (advisory committee) is eligible to receive a local food purchasing grant (grant) to purchase Colorado grown, raised, or processed products for school meals. Each eligible participating school food authority must comply with reporting requirements. The bill establishes the amount of the grants, limits on how the grant money may be spent, and the required membership of the advisory committee. The department must annually review a sample of the invoices for purchases made using grant money to ensure compliance with purchasing requirements.
Under the bill, a participating school food authority may receive an additional amount to increase the wages for individuals employed to prepare and serve food.
The bill creates the local school food purchasing technical assistance and education grant program (grant program), under which a statewide nonprofit organization distributes grants to promote the purchase of Colorado grown, raised, or processed products by participating school food authorities and to assist participating school food authorities in preparing meals using basic ingredients rather than processed products. The nonprofit organization must report annually to the department concerning implementation of the grant program.
The department must submit to committees of the general assembly a biennial report concerning implementation of the program. The department must contract with an independent auditor to conduct a biennial financial and performance audit of the program. The report and the audit must include implementation of the program, implementation of the local food purchasing grants, use of the additional amount for increasing wages, and implementation of the grant program.
The bill directs the general assembly to appropriate annually, by line item in the annual appropriation bill, the amount necessary to implement the program, including a specified amount for the grant program.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced.)