Governor Waltz signed the Free School Meals Act into law

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor’s note: The above video was broadcast on March 14, 2023.

On Friday, Gov. Tim Waltz visited Webster Elementary School in Minneapolis to sign a bill that would provide Minnesota students with free breakfast and lunch.

Community activists, youth leaders and lawmakers attended a press conference in northeast Minneapolis Friday afternoon.

“If it was easy, it would have been done long ago,” Governor Waltz said before signing the bill into law.

Governor Waltz said Minnesota is the fourth state to offer free school meals, joining California, Colorado and Maine.

That it is more than dollars and cents was evident from the words of those who wrote and maintained this law. Among them was Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who fought back tears at times when she told the crowd that growing up she was among Minnesota children who didn’t know where their next meal would come from. He said the bill would remove barriers to learning and stigmatize and shame children whose families don’t stay for lunch.

“I was one of 6 children in Minnesota who experienced hunger. I was one of those kids who grew up with a different color lunch card because my family was on free and reduced lunch,” shared Flanagan. “There were nights when I ate and my mom said she just wasn’t hungry. It wasn’t until I was an adult and I became a parent that I realized she was lying to protect me from the reality of our food insecurity. .. he was hungry”.

The lieutenant governor placed a photo of his mother Pat near the podium and said the bill was “the most important thing I’ve ever worked on in my life.”

“I call this bill the Pat Flanagan School Meals Act,” Flanagan said with a laugh.

The school lunch bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday. It was a Democratic-dominated session, but even a few Republicans slipped as the Senate passed the bill 38-26. The House agreed with the Senate’s version of the measure and sent it to the governor’s desk.

“Hunger makes learning almost impossible,” lead author and teacher Sen. Heather Gustafson of Vadnais Heights, a Democrat, said earlier this week. “This is a bill to ensure that every K-12 student in Minnesota gets the nutrition they need while in school.”

About 275,000 Minnesota students currently receive free or reduced lunch.

According to Gustafson, one in six children are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t know when their next meal will be.

About 18.5% of Minnesota students qualify for free or reduced-price meals but don’t get them, she added, often because of family instability. For families just above the poverty line or in need of a break, she said, guaranteed meals are less of a concern.

Republican critics said the bill was unnecessary and that the money would be better spent on literacy and numeracy.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” GOP Sen. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa said earlier this week. “Minnesota residents are paying more than $400 million in taxes to pay for lunches for children in this bill, many of whom are already being paid for by their families.”


Download KARE 11+ for free For Roku, Fire TV and other smart TV platforms, watch more from KARE 11 anytime! KARE 11+ app contains live broadcasts of all KARE 11 news. You can also find on-demand replays of newscasts; KARE explores 11 countries, uncovers news and 10,000 events; Exclusive programs like Verify and HeartThreads; and Minnesota sports talk from our partners at Locked On Minnesota.

Check out the latest political coverage from our Land of 10,000 Lakes YouTube playlist: