Minnesota lawmakers weighing policies impacting kids

KEYC News Now at 6 Recording
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:46 PM CST
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - A Minnesota House bill is in its early stages of work before landing on Governor Tim Walz’s desk. The bill supports free school meals for all students, regardless of income, and it cleared through the first House committee yesterday.

“We know that proper nutrition and adequate nutrition is what allows you to succeed in school activities in life, said Sheri Sander-Silva, Executive Director at Feeding Our Communities Partners.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress funded public schools to serve free meals to students, regardless of family income requirements. The funding expired in 2022.

Now, Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota DFL lawmakers want to prioritize the bill and make free school meals permanent.

Mankato Area Public Schools says the free meals would help over 8,000 students in the district, with over 41% of those students already participating in the free and reduced food program.

“A free lunch meal would mean that students, whether they have money in their lunch account or not, would not have to feel the stress of paying for that meal. They would be able to come into our cafeterias and get food that they need to be healthy eaters and healthy learners in our schools,” explained Darcy Stueber, Director Of Nutrition Services at Mankato Area Public Schools.

Feeding Our Community’s Partners serves just under 900 students across five different school districts with its backpack food program, regardless of income.

Organizers believe free meals are essential for students’ learning.

“Our priority is to eliminate any barriers that we possibly can for youth to access the nutrition they need. Of course, we want to see that, you know in school hours and out of school hours to make sure that they have all that they need to be successful,” said Sander-Silva.

“A good balanced meal just creates a wonderful atmosphere for our students because once we have full tummies students are attentive and are ready to learn,” said Stueber.