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Minnesota House Passes Bill Increasing State Funding for School Lunches

St. Paul, Minnesota — Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed HF 2480, a bill increasing state funding for reduced price lunches on a bipartisan vote. State Representative John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) voted in favor of the bill.

“The phrase “no-brainer” may get over used from time to time,” said Rep. Persell. “But this vote was a no-brainer.”

School lunches are funded through a combination of federal, state, and individual funds. ; The federal government provides $2.93 for free meals, $2.53 for reduced-price meals, and $0.28 for fully-paid school lunches. Minnesota provides 12.5 cents for each of these three categories. The forty-cent gap between free lunches and reduced-price

lunches has resulted in alarming instances of kids being turned away when they can’t pay or being given a less nutritious alternative lunch.

The bill tackles this issue by increasing state aid for reduced-price school lunch by 40 cents, which will fully cover the costs for students. The total cost will be $3.519 million in 2015. The bill also prohibits a district from charging a lunch fee to a student who is free or reduced-price lunch eligible.

In 2013, Legal Aid conducted a survey of Minnesota school districts and found that 15% of districts had policies in place that would refuse a student hot lunch if they could not pay. Another 53% of districts provide an alternative like a cheese sandwich for those students who could not pay for lunch. A significant amount of the students affected by this were students who qualified for reduced lunch.

Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette), a retired teacher, is happy to see the bill pass.

“Teachers across Minnesota work with students from a variety of backgrounds,” said Erickson. “And I can tell you this, if a student is sitting in their desk starving they aren’t going to be able to learn no matter how smart they are. Providing a decent meal for these students will help make sure they can concentrate on the things they’re learning

in the classroom.”

The full report can be found here: http://mylegalaid.org/downloads/2014_Lunch_Report_-_Final_2.pdf

 

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