Starting last spring at the beginning of the the pandemic and remote learning, JESPA leadership asked the district to put employees to work to better serve students. JESPA leaders have been relentless in pushing the district to explore options to put ESPs to work to increase services and supports to our students. Food and internet access are just some of the resources that many students lack.
Then, school went remote again. Just weeks ago school workers flooded the JESPA office with calls and emails about the district’s plan for food access during remote-learning, fearing that students would lack adequate food resources, particularly among those approximately 3,000 unhoused children in the county and those who lack transportation and rely on school lunch to eat. Then, the district started to furlough food service workers so they filed a class action grievance.
JESPA leaders came together with 20 local organizations made up of churches, food banks, non-profits, and other unions, under the umbrella of Coloradans for the Common Good, to fight for better food access for students. Because of our work together, in only two weeks the district increased food distributions sites by more than twice their original plan. Students and families can now access food at 33 sites (up from 15). Kitchen workers and bus drivers will be utilized to deliver food to some of our most remote and underserved areas of the district with the first pilot completed on Monday, December 21st, and a continuation of this service in January when school is back in session.
We couldn’t be more proud of the work that JESPA members did to increase access to food for students and protect worker jobs by:
- increasing food sites from 15 to 19 (and possibly more to come)
- extending food site hours from 2 per week to 5 per week
- delivering food to 14 stops across the district
I think we all want to see the food program succeed, and demonstrate to the district that in these times there’s more demand than ever for the valuable work that education support professionals do. So don’t sit back and wait to see if the district advertises the program and really makes it work. If you know of a student or family in need, contact them! Tell the people you know that you care about students and food access in our county. Encourage all to use the USDA Free Meal Program while it lasts.