To the Editor,

A few days ago, Governor Walz and the DFL led Minnesota Legislature, including a small group of Republican Senators, sent a message loud and clear when they passed the Universal School Meals bill: children and families are a priority in our state! 

With the Universal School Meals law, K-12 students will have access to breakfast and lunch at no cost to them. This law recognizes that the current means-tested approach to qualify for free- and-reduced meals, isn’t meeting the intended needs, and doesn’t account for the multiple scenarios and circumstances of families who do not qualify but struggle to pay out-of-pocket for them. Passage of the Universal School Meals law actually means money back in the pockets of families, easing financial stress. 

Pediatricians, educators, school board members, students and hunger advocates spoke out in favor of this bill in the weeks leading up to the votes, expressing the numerous benefits of universal access to breakfast and lunch, including: improved classroom performance; reduced stress, anxiety and depression for children and adolescents; reduced stigma; improved mental and physical health; and reduced administrative burdens. To put it simply, the law recognizes that until we are meeting the most basic nutrition needs of students, other educational investments will fall short; if students are hungry they are not learning.

With so many benefits to this bill it is hard to comprehend why the three legislators representing Senate District 9, Representative Tom Murphy, R-Underwood and Representative Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley and Senator Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls voted against it. We are used to the uber-partisan Backer voting against bills that have DFL support even when they ultimately benefit Senate District 9. But we are just getting to know Murphy and Rasmusson. Rasmussen could have joined other Republican Senators in favor of this bill because, as they said with their votes, it was the right thing to do. He didn’t. If this is the kind of partisan approach, we can expect from Rasmusson, Murphy and Backer then the needs of many children and families in Senate District 9 will go unrepresented! If we can’t count on our legislators to prioritize hungry children and families living on the financial edge, of which there are many in their districts, what can we count on them for? 

Proud of Minnesota, 

Christeen Borsheim,