Organizations working to ensure Denver kids don’t go hungry can now apply for grants of up to $1 million a year, courtesy of a new sales tax that voters approved last fall.

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment opened the first of what are expected to be several grant competitions on Thursday. The department will be accepting applications, which can be made here, until March 26.

In November, voters approved the citizen-led “Healthy Food for Denver Kids” proposal. That increased the sales tax by .08 percent — less than a penny for every $10 spent — to raise an estimated $11 million a year over a decade to be used to feed kids and educate them about nutrition. An estimated one in five Denver children are hungry or can’t be sure of when they will next eat.

The first grants will be made to nonprofit or government agencies whose focuses include a) providing healthy meals or snacks for young Denverites, and b) conducting educational and public health programs on farming, gardening, cooking, nutrition, home economics and healthy eating.

The grants will last for one year with the possibility of two one-year renewals. Organizations may be allowed to apply again after the initial three-year grant term. The Healthy Food for Denver Kids ballot proposal called for the program to expire after a decade (though the city could ask voters to renew the program when the time comes).

Last summer, 13 people were appointed to a Healthy Food for Denver Kids Commission that will review the applications and make the grants. Commission members include Blake Angelo, the key organizer of the citizen-led initiative who was also a former manager of food systems development in Denver’s Office of Economic Development, as well as a former Colorado State University extension agent for Denver County.

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