Minnesota’s new meal bill is the latest development in a growing concern for many families with school-age children in America.
In March, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that would provide free school lunches to all students in the state of Minnesota. In a statement highlighted on fox9.com, Walz recounted his past as a teacher in a statement regarding the legislation.
“As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota’s working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state,” Waltz said.
Minnesota’s legislation is a response to a growing issue around the country. A federal pandemic era program established by Congress in 2020 gave free meals to students across the country. This program expired prior to the current academic year.
In the aftermath, a School Nutrition Association report showed over $19 million in school meal debt had been accumulated in data from 800 districts.
The benefits to meals for students has been highlighted by a national campaign called “No Kid Hungry” whose findings were published on the School Nutrition Association website. The findings show students who had a meal at school saw a 17.5% increase in standardized math test scores. The campaign also says attendance increased an additional 1.5 days on average.
Department of Agriculture proposals would also increase eligibility for free meals in low-income school districts. However, opponents of the proposal have stated such eligibility should be based on individual family income instead.
Broader adoption of policies such as Minnesota’s and the proposal from the federal government remains unclear. Nevertheless, families with school children are feeling the financial strain after the pandemic.