Free lunches for students in 2023

Next school year, lunches for students will be free


Maddy Parkhurst

Pictured above is the Grand Junction High school Cafeteria. Mesa Valley School District 51 will offer free lunches to all students next year.

Starting at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, District 51 schools will be adopting a new free lunch program. 

District 51 is a part of the Colorado Live Well School Food Initiative Nourish Colorado which means the district received over one million dollars for an equipment grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to purchase kitchen equipment.

But now, through the United States Department of Agriculture, school lunches can now be free for students and aims to eliminate the stigma some students fear in the cafeteria. 

“In the past, even when underprivileged kids would go put in their number, just like everyone else, there was this fear that people would somehow know that they were getting it for free. Now, [the plan] opens it up for everyone to get food a lot easier without that stigma of worrying that people know that they’re getting it for free,” said GJHS teacher Jodee Cronk, who runs the school’s Tiger Boutique & Haberdashery.

The main concern for this decision had to do with funds, but about half of the funding will be covered by the USDA, while the rest will come from the Healthy School Meals for All program. 

This isn’t the first time District 51 has followed a free school lunch plan. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students had to apply to receive free lunches. During the pandemic, school lunches became free for all students.

The new plan will follow the plan set during that time, meaning all students will receive lunches without the need to apply.

“Our purpose in public education is to educate kids and we can’t teach them if they’re hungry,” said Cronk. “[Students’] basic needs have to be met before they can learn.”