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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

Healthy School Meals for All program faces $24 million budget gap

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Thursday, February 29, 2024   

Colorado lawmakers are considering ways to address a projected $24 million funding shortfall in the Healthy School Meals for All program, and grants to help districts purchase food from local farmers and ranchers could be at risk.

Dan Sharp, nutrition services director for Mesa County School District 51, said serving fresh, locally-sourced foods -- as opposed to highly processed foods shipped cross-country -- gives kids the fuel they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

"There's evidence-based research that the more locally sourced our food supply is -- whether we get it at the grocery store or through our school meal programs -- a higher quality and better nutritious product for our students," Sharp explained.

A new survey sponsored by Hunger Free Colorado and MAZON found 70% of Republicans, 79% of independents and 91% of Democrats view the school meal program approved by voters in 2022 as favorable.

The program's success may be one reason for the budget gap. Participation in school breakfasts has grown by 36% across Colorado and lunch participation is up 31%.

Colorado's share of the program's costs, which also receives U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, was meant to be paid for by Coloradans who earn $300,000 or more per year. Nearly three of four Colorado voters surveyed want lawmakers to ensure full funding for Healthy School Meals for All.

Sharp believes investment will also benefit rural economies.

"For the Joint Budget Committee to affirm the grant funding for the local food programming next year will have a direct economic impact on our local ranchers and producers in the state of Colorado," Sharp asserted.

He stressed local farmers and ranchers need reliable, heavy-volume buyers like local school districts to make the economics work. Sharp pointed to one rancher he is working with to supply beef for a meatloaf recipe he hopes to offer next school year.

"For that rancher that I just spoke to, it's a big deal," Sharp observed. "It saves them those transit costs, and it's the pride of their product. They want their local beef to be in their schools, for their grandkids or for their kids, and for the families in that community."


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