POSITION ON AMENDMENT 70
Hunger Free Colorado has officially endorsed the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign in support of Amendment 70, which will be on Colorado’s November 2016 ballot. The coalition of small business owners, community partners, working families and faith organizations aim to increase the minimum wage to $12 by the year 2020.
Currently, the minimum wage in Colorado is $8.31. That’s about $300 per week or just over $17,000 per year. A raise in the minimum wage will affect nearly half a million workers in Colorado, 86% of whom are over the age of 20.
Why are we supporting this ballot initiative? Low wages impact Coloradans’ ability to afford nutritious food—the fuel needed to thrive. Families and individuals across the state are forced to make difficult choices between paying rent or buying groceries. The minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living and many full-time workers have to find help to make ends meet and put food on their tables.
There are only three counties in Colorado—Bent, Otero and Custer—where a single adult working a minimum-wage job could meet their basic needs, according to the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado. An increase to $12-per-hour will positively impact hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.
IMPROVING FOOD ASSISTANCE: IMPLEMENTATION OF SB-190
The unanimous passage of Senate Bill 16-190 was a milestone for hungry Coloradans this past spring since it will address the great variance in access to food stamps and other public assistance programs.
In the months since, Hunger Free Colorado has been actively participating in the implementation of the state legislation. Our Director of Public Policy, Cate Blackford, serves on the work group that’s developing the formula for sharing federal bonuses and sanctions for program performance among the counties. Our Senior Vice President, Vikki O’Neil, is a member of the work group that’s overseeing the study of how counties administer Food Assistance (more commonly known as food stamps) and other programs and why they have such different outcomes.
Both processes are moving forward, full of thoughtful discussion of the issues at stake and how to make the most of the opportunities presented by the legislation. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the progress.
CHILD NUTRITION REAUTHORIZATION: #StopTheBlock
In anticipation of upcoming school site visits with some of Colorado’s Members of Congress, the Colorado Child Nutrition Reauthorization Coalition prepared and sent letters to each U.S. Representative from Colorado outlining our grave concerns with “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003).
Joint letters were sent to Rep. Buck, Rep. Coffman, Rep. DeGette, Rep. Lamborn, Rep. Perlmutter, Rep. Polis and Rep. Tipton detailing why, and each included a case-in-point from their district. (Click the links to view each letter.)
Here’s a general excerpt from the letters:
“We write to express our strong opposition to the block grant provision included in the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003). Our child nutrition programs provide kids with the nutritious meals they need to grow up healthy and succeed academically. Part of the success of these programs is rooted in how they are financed and administered as a reimbursement for meals served, allowing them to respond to changes in need. Undercutting that success with a block grant system would move our recent child nutrition successes backward. We urge you to vote no on H.R. 5003 and ask your colleagues to do the same, as we are particularly concerned with the block grant provision.
The three-state block grant proposal in H.R. 5003 would immediately cut the funding to operate the school nutrition programs in those states. It would eliminate the additional 6 cent reimbursement that 98 percent of school districts receive for meeting the improved nutrition standards. Funding would also be capped at the fiscal year 2016 funding level, and wouldn’t adjust with inflation, recession or population growth. In Colorado, the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch increased by 8 percent, or 27,000 students, in the past five years alone. With funding capped, Colorado’s ability to serve low-income children would erode and the state would face an unfunded mandate to respond to any increase in need.
Furthermore, the meals would no longer have to meet consistent nutrition standards. The current standards would be reduced to the simple requirement that meals be “healthy.” This would create a patchwork of standards that seriously diminishes the school meals programs’ ability to promote good nutrition and improve child health outcomes, and it would make it difficult for schools to procure the food needed.
There would be no requirement that children have access to both school breakfast and lunch, something schools in Colorado have worked hard to offer. Studies have shown that positive effects of breakfast include students’ increased recall, episodic memory, short and long term-term memory, visual attention and concentration, as well as decreases in impulsivity among school children. Breakfast participation among Colorado’s lower-income students has dramatically increased over the past 5 years, from 38 percent in 2011 to 59 percent in 2015. Weakening support for integrating both programs into the school day could have serious impacts on the ability of our lower-income students to start the day focused and ready to learn.”
The Colorado Child Nutrition Reauthorization Coalition includes the following: Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado School Nutrition Association, Healthier Colorado, Hunger Free Colorado, LiveWell Colorado and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Colorado.
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