To the Editor,

  There has been much discussion throughout the state and in our community about the universal school meals bill. Under this legislation, state taxpayers would pay for all K-12 students to receive both breakfast and lunch at no cost. This bill may seem well-intended, but once you review the details, it’s clear that it will do more harm than good.

  We all want to guarantee that Minnesota students have access to nutritious school meals. Yet there are programs already in place to ensure just that. Currently, the National School Lunch Program provides meal assistance–either free or reduced meals depending on household income–to students in both public and private schools. Our state law, however, is even more generous, funding no-cost meals for all students who qualify for free-and-reduced-price meals. And in our area, more than half of our students receive free meals at school through this statute.

  Therefore, this legislation will provide free meals to families who can currently afford to pay for them. Instead, we should take a more targeted approach to support those in need of food assistance. A great example of this is legislation that we both supported, and has since become law, to provide $5 million in emergency funding to food shelves.

  When talking to our local school administrators, we have heard that they are worried about losing funding through lower compensatory aid. This is because the use of school lunch aid applications from student households largely determines the Compensatory Revenue each school receives. If all students receive free meals, there will be no incentive to fill out this application and school districts could lose funding.

  We know that Minnesota schools need further financial support to address a number of critical needs. School transportation, mental health counselors and special education are just a few of the many areas that come to mind. That is why taxpayer dollars can be better spent in a myriad of other places than a nearly $400 million free school meals program.

  Therefore, we support education funding that goes directly to our local schools to meet the community’s unique needs. This will allow schools the flexibility to decide if they want to direct their funding toward a universal school meals program or another need.

 Senator Jordan 


Representative Jeff Backer

Representative Tom