Skip to main content

Secretary Tom Vilsack Visits Greeley Evans School District

By Anjali Budhiraja, USDA FNS Public Affairs Specialist with Dr. Deirdre Pilch, Superintendent, Greeley Evans School District 6, guest author

Greeley-Evans School District 6 in northern Colorado was honored and excited to welcome Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to Maplewood Elementary School on March 22. The Secretary and visitors were able to see just one school of more than 30 in District 6 that provide essential health and nutrition programs to more than 22,000 students every day.

During the pandemic, USDA assisted children and families by providing healthy school meals to all children at no cost. That changed at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, when school meals programs transitioned back to pre-pandemic reimbursement rates for free and reduced price meals.

We were proud to share with the Secretary that in August 2022, the Greeley-Evans School District 6 Board of Education approved spending from the district’s reserve funds to continue to provide no cost meals to students during the school year. We were the only school district in Colorado to fund no cost meals from our own budget.

At Maplewood, 91% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. District-wide, nearly 67% students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Vilsack Greeley1

Maplewood Elementary has a wonderful nutrition education component, and our teachers demonstrated a culinary classroom project, making “Salad on a Stick.” Local farmers Derrick and Hanmei Hoffman shared their roles in the district’s Farm to School program. Next school year, 30% of the Hoffman’s yield will be used to provide nutritious, locally-grown produce for our students.

While in Colorado, the Secretary made an announcement that hit close to home for our district and could potentially allow us to feed children meals for free for the foreseeable future! He announced a new proposed rule for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which would expand the number of schools eligible to opt into the program, thereby increasing the number of students who can receive meals at no cost.

Last year, Colorado voters passed a bill for a program called “Healthy School Meals for All.” The new proposed rule, when finalized, combined with the Colorado state program, would provide the best possible scenario for all Greeley students to receive healthy meals at no cost.

Secretary Vilsack called what we are doing in District 6 “miraculous.” This is a huge honor and recognition for us, especially our nutrition services staff. We know that the way to turn poverty around in our community is to educate children well. Providing our students with nutritious meals and instilling healthy habits is essential to that mission.

Vilsack Greeley2
Page updated: November 22, 2023