The Minnesota State Senate passed the School Lunches for All bill Tuesday, marking a landmark change in how children receive food in schools.
In order to qualify, schools must enroll in a federal program for free and reduced priced meals. The state will then pick up the tab for the cost difference, ensuring that all children at participating schools receive breakfasts and lunches. The cost is expected to total $388 million over the next two years.
The bill received bipartisan support, with some Republicans joining the DFL in passing the measure. The final vote was 38-26.
“If my parents can’t afford my lunch at school, what will we eat at home?” asked Will, a student advocate for Appetite for Change, said in the House Education Policy Committee in January. “When I was younger, I would eat one thing for an entire week, like ramen noodles. It was a struggle that you can’t really get past. I didn’t have any nutritious food.”
The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a slightly different version of the bill in February; the revised language will have to be voted on again in the House before it heads to the governor’s desk.
Despite current federal and state food security programs, one out of every four food-insecure children does not qualify for assistance, according to data from Hunger Solutions Minnesota. In 2022, food shelf visits hit a record high, just 5 years after breaking the previous record in 2017.