Colorado students who qualify for a reduced price lunch can get it for free, thanks to a state program that covers the extra cost. But that's only through fifth grade.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat, and state Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican, would extend this program to middle school students. State analysts estimate it would cover 1.4 million lunches at a cost of $564,000 in its first year.

In middle school, some Colorado school districts see a sharp decrease in the number of students eating school lunches, and school nutritionists don’t think that’s a coincidence or some adolescent preference.

To understand this, you need to know there are two kinds of free lunch in Colorado. The federal government picks up all the cost for families who earn very little, and some of the cost for families who earn a little more but not that much. Since 2008, the state has covered the difference for younger children, rendering their lunches free to them, but as those kids get older, that state benefit expires, and parents are expected to pay something. This change catches some families by surprise.

Read the full article on free school lunch by Erica Meltzer at Chalkbeat