Governor Walz signs bill for free universal school meals

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill on Friday approving free, universal school meals.

The bill, HF 5, was approved in the Minnesota Senate on Tuesday with a 38-26 vote. The Minnesota House passed the bill last month, 70-58.

The bill’s author says one in six students are learning on an empty stomach, and this bill aims to end that. It uses state funds, after the application of all available federal funds, to provide free school breakfast and free school lunch to Minnesota students in all participating schools, regardless of their family income.

“As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota’s working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state,” said Governor Walz. “This bill puts us one step closer to making Minnesota the best state for kids to grow up, and I am grateful to all of the legislators and advocates for making it happen.”

Those in support of the bill say taking away income requirements for the free meals would help fight student hunger.

“All families will benefit from this program,” said Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL – Minneapolis). “Members, this is a bill that would cut costs at a time when food costs are rising.”

Opponents of the bill are concerned about the cost of the program.

“Families are suffering, we do need to feed our children, but we have to do this in a reasonable, fiscally responsible way,” said Rep. Krista Knudsen, (R-Lake Shore).

Gov. Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan were joined by legislators, students, and advocates at Webster Elementary in Northeast Minneapolis for the bill signing.