Kids Eat Free: Walz signs bill guaranteeing free meals in school

March 20, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Thousands of Minnesota kids will be able to receive breakfast and lunch at school for free under a bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz Friday.

Senator Heather Gustafson (DFL-Vadnais Heights) is a teacher herself who helped carry the bill at the Capitol.

“Being hungry makes it almost impossible to learn,” Gustafson said. “Yet, there’s not a literacy program or a math strategy that’s going to improve scores if a student doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Under the bill, the state will pay the gap between federal funding and the cost of school meals. It’s expected to cost about $200 million annually to feed roughly 600,000 students.

“This is the politics of hope and joy,” Walz said. “This is politics about a positive future. This is not finding things to divide us, this is not finding the petty to try and see if you can get a hit on Twitter or something. This is truly about doing what’s right for the future.”

Republican opponents of the bill had said families that can afford it should be paying for meals, and this is an unnecessary spend of tax dollars.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch. But we have a bill before us that says there’s a free lunch in the title. That’s not true. There is no such thing as a free lunch,” Republican state Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said. “The people in Minnesota are paying, in this bill, over $400 million in taxes.”

During debate on the Senate floor earlier this week, Drazkowski came under criticism for comments he made, saying he’s never met a person in Minnesota who is hungry.