St. Paul, MN - Today, the Minnesota House passed House File 5, providing universal school meals. The bill, authored by Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL - Minneapolis), would guarantee breakfast and lunch to Minnesota’s students, reducing costs for families. The bill passed on a vote of 70-58.
“Minnesota is a state that values education and wants to see every child succeed, but that is not possible when 1 in 6 students are trying to learn on an empty stomach,” said Rep. Jordan. “Today’s vote brings us a step closer to providing the food security families need and the education our students deserve.”
Nationally, students qualify for free meals if their family income is less than 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, and for reduced price meals if family income is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the FPG. While free and reduced lunch programs already exist, many Minnesota families don't qualify, leaving 1 in 4 food-insecure students behind.
“It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry. DFLers are acting today to help make sure Minnesota’s children aren’t hungry at school, but that they are ready to learn,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “When kids come to school in the morning, all of them should be able to go to the cafeteria and get breakfast to start off the day, and at lunch, everyone should get a meal as well. DFLers are working to ensure our children have every opportunity to succeed.”
This bill would replace the current state funding for school meals with a requirement that the state pay the difference between the federally determined average cost of a school meal and the actual federal reimbursement rate for that meal for all school meals served to students.
“How can we possibly expect a child to succeed when they have an empty stomach in the classroom? With this bill to provide school breakfast and lunch for all students, regardless of background, we are building one of the best states for children and families in the nation,” said Majority Leader Long. “This bill also reduces costs for families and saves them hundreds of dollars on groceries annually.”
As a part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, the USDA provided free meals to all students, regardless of income, through the end of the 2021-2022 school year. While federal support did not continue into the current school year, several states, including California, Nevada, Vermont, and Massachusetts have continued funding free meals for all of their students out of their state budgets.
Children who experience food insecurity early in life are twice as likely to be identified for special education services and repeat a grade. Food insecurity can also lead to increased school absences, lower reading and math test scores, and increased erratic behavior.
The companion bill is currently moving through the legislative process in the Minnesota Senate, and Governor Walz has expressed support for the bill. Video of today’s floor debate can be found on the House Public Information YouTube channel.