Denver Sales Tax Provides Better Nutrition for Kids

by Alexina Cather, MPH
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name: Ordinance 203: Denver Food Services for Youth Sales Tax

Location: Denver, Colorado

Overview: Ordinance 302, placed on the ballot by the Healthy Food For Denver Kids campaign, establishes a nominal sales tax (less than a penny on any $10 purchase) to fund access to healthy food and education programs for youth in Denver over a 10-year period. In other words, the tax will fund selected organizations for the next 10 years.

It was voted to establish an additional general city sales tax by .08 percent.

The tax is the next step forward in Denver’s long-term strategic plan to achieve a healthy and equitable food system. The 2017 Denver Food Vision, which the city and county of Denver published after a year of public outreach efforts, lays out a number of goals for the city, which include:

  1. Invest in building community-driven complete neighborhood food environments
  2. Expand community food production and sharing
  3. Improve access to a wide variety of healthy food retail options
  4. Ensure that healthy food is affordable for everyone
  5. Promote healthy food environments and education for youth
  6. Increase community demand for healthy foods
  7. Develop Denver as an epicenter for the regional food economy
  8. Support the creation, expansion and economic strength of Denver food businesses
  9. Spur innovation and entrepreneurship across food and agricultural industries
  10. Expand and preserve regional food system assets and infrastructure
  11. Promote environmentally regenerative and climate smart food systems
  12. Reduce amount of food going to waste

Funding is essential for this plan to work effectively, so this tax will get the ball rolling.

Progress to date: Denver passed Ordinance 203 on November 6, 2018, with an unexpected 59 percent voter approval. It will not go in effect until mid 2019, but it will hopefully encourage local nonprofits to step up and expand their work. It was not been decided which organizations will receive funding yet, but it is likely that Denver Urban Gardens will be one of them.

Program/Policy Initiated: November 2018

Food policy category: Food Insecurity

Program goals: To allocate funds for making access to healthier food and teaching programs available to youth in Denver

How it works: Under the initiative, a 13-person commission will be created (through a preexisting city-coordinated process) to allocate the funds—$11.2 million in the first year and as much as $100 million over the full 10 years—to Denver organizations that are already working to get more healthy food to children in low-income families. The ordinance will increase the city’s sales tax by .08 percent to 3.73 percent; the state’s current sales tax of 2.9 percent is, according to the campaign, one of the lowest in the country.

Why it is important: According to the Healthy Food For Denver Kids campaign, Colorado is the third fastest-growing state for childhood hunger, and one in seven kids in Denver missed a meal in the last 30 days because of costNutrition impacts everything from physical health—including  more visits to the nurse’s office—to academic achievement. The campaign is about getting young kids engaged with gardening and food prep and building long-term habits. This won’t just affect them for the next 10 years but for the rest of their lives.

Learn more:,_Colorado,_Initiated_Ordinance_302,_Food_Services_for_Youth_Sales_Tax_(November_2018)

Point of Contact:
Denver Public Works
201 W. Colfax Ave, Dept. 608
Denver, CO 80202
In Denver: 311
Outside Denver: 720-913-1311

Similar practices: N/A


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