State senator says he’s never met a hungry Minnesotan

(ABC 6 News) – A Minnesota lawmaker is making national headlines and going viral after making a controversial statement during the debate over a bill to provide free school lunches to all Minnesota students.

“Mr. President, I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota… That is hungry. Yet, today I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that doesn’t have access to enough food to eat. Now, I should say that hunger is a relative term Mr. President. I had a cereal bar for breakfast today, I guess I’m hungry now,” Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R) said.

The Senate did ending up passing the bill 38 to 26, sending it back to the House for approval where it’s also expected to pass.

While other lawmakers also voted no, they say it is not because there are not hungry people.

“Certainly there are far too many hungry Minnesotans and hungry children in this world, in this state, in this district,” Sen. Carla Nelson (R) of Rochester said.

Sen. Nelson says some lawmakers have issues with details in the bill concerning school funding, or lack thereof.

“In fact, my concerns were that funding was being taken away from our schools with this particular vote, so no. I believe there’s far too many hungry children in Minnesota,” she added.

In the Austin Public School District, more than 65% of the population qualifies for free and reduced lunches.

“We have a hunger issue here and I saw the senator who says he has never met a hungry person before. To him I say, ‘you are a lucky man, because there are lots of hungry people around,” APS Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Mary Weikum, said.

In fact, according to the non-profit Feed America, about 338,000 people in Minnesota are hungry and more than 121,000 of them are children.

“We know that families are struggling more, we want to be there for them. We know that nutrition plays a tremendous role in learning,” Weikum added.

The free lunch for all bill will cost the state roughly 200 million dollars a year, according to Sen. Nelson.