In advance of 2021 School Board elections in Jefferson County, Coloradans for the Common Good (CCG) assembled over 300 people at Trinity Presbyterian Church for a non-partisan candidate accountability session. All six school board candidates were asked "yes or no" in regard to increasing wages for education support professionals and increasing access to healthy food.
All six candidates said yes. After the election, CCG worked alongside member institution Jeffco Education Support Professional Association (JESPA) to hold the recently elected candidates accountable to their commitment. The work resulted in higher wages for school workers and healthier food options for Jeffco students. Andrea Cisneros, a leader with JESPA and CCG, tells the story of how it happened:
“Some parents got ahold of our union and asked us how to get better food that’s more culturally relevant to what they eat at home....”
“Parents were upset and didn't know what steps to take. They joined us and the Coloradans for the Common Good, … and, together, we set up a game plan.” JESPA [Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association] is a member of Coloradans for the Common Good, a broad-based organization comprised of over 30 local institutions, including congregations, unions, non-profits, and neighborhood organizations, committed to the common good of all people.
The game plan was to grow their network of support among the community, partner with groups familiar with farm-to-table approaches, visit other districts that were serving healthy foods, and push their elected officials or any candidate running for office, at the time, to publicly support JESPA’s efforts.
JESPA ... successfully negotiated a pilot program that will replace junk food and highly processed prepackaged food with healthier, scratch-cooked options. Plus, menu creation will include parent and student voices and will have more culturally relevant options. The pilot will start in three schools: an elementary, middle, and high school.
While the menu is still in progress, Cisneros hopes to serve quesadillas, enchiladas, or homemade burritos, instead of frozen burritos in a packet.
“We realized that we have more power together, … and we couldn’t have done this without the support from our parents and community,” she adds.
[Photo Credit: NEA Today]
Recently, Jeffco’s program has been under fire from leaders in the faith, nonprofit, service and education communities. A virtual forum was held Dec. 9, 2020, hosted by the group, Coloradans for the Common Good (formerly Colorado IAF). Pastor Reagan Humber, House for All Sinners and Saints, led the meeting. Taking the District to task for what he considered inadequate access to the program for families in need, Humber called on Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh to meet with representatives from the group to discuss changes. In a separate interview, he said the CCG coalition’s main concern was what they perceived to be deficiencies in Jeffco’s program in comparison to similar programs.
“Denver and Cherry Creek are open every day for kids to be able to get hot lunch,” Humber said.
While he agrees the recent expansion of hours and locations is a step in the right direction, his group is still concerned about distances between pick-up points creating long walks for kids who have no other transportation options to pick up meals.
Regarding the newly launched bus delivery routes, Humber said his group is thrilled the District has begun this pilot program, and delighted to know their efforts in highlighting the issue paid off.
He also sees issues with meals the district provides that require reheating, pointing out the need for ready to eat options for families who are homeless or living in cars.
As for the meeting between Schuh and the CCG folks, Humber said the Interim Superintendent has tentatively agreed, but no date has been set.
[Photo Credit: Glenn Wallace/Golden Transcript]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Golden Transcript [pdf]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Arvada Press [pdf]