(Colorado News Connection) This week the U.S. House is expected to finally put the Build Back Better Act up for a vote, and children's advocates in Colorado are pushing the state's congressional delegation to advance a bill they say will ensure that more kids can access nutritious food.
Ashley Wheeland, director of public policy with Hunger Free Colorado, said the measure would remove barriers to allow more schools to participate in free in-school and summer meal programs.
"In Colorado we've been left out a lot because our low-income kids are so dispersed around the state," said Wheeland. "But the provisions in the Build Back Better plan would make that a better option for more of the schools who do serve a larger percentage of low-income children."
Among other so-called soft infrastructure priorities, Build Back Better would expand the number of schools that offer free meals to all students, and extend a program to help students who receive free or reduced-price school meals access food when school cafeterias close for the summer.
Republicans and some Democrats oppose the measure, citing its close to $2 trillion price tag, and concerns about rising national debt.
Wheeland noted that Build Back Better was designed to be fully paid for by closing tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
She said helping students access nutritious food year-round can help them overcome the educational, health and economic impacts of the pandemic and put them on a path to become successful adults.
"Kids need to not be hungry to learn," said Wheeland. "We're investing in our public education, and it's important that that education is working for all kids. So it's really important that we also ensure all kids have access to the food they need."
Build Back Better would provide $30 million for schools to upgrade kitchen equipment, and $250 million to incentivize healthier meals. The measure also allows states and tribes that participate in nutrition programs for Women, Infants and Children to provide additional summer meal assistance.