GOP Lawmaker Says Children Aren’t Hungry Enough to Justify Free Meals at School
Republican state Senator Steve Drazkowski claimed he has “yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry” in a speech opposing a bill that would provide free breakfast and lunches to students in the state.
“Hunger is a relative term… I had a cereal bar for breakfast, I guess I’m hungry now,” Drazkowski said. “I didn’t see a definition of hunger in the bill… most reasonable people suggest hunger means you don’t have enough to eat in order to provide for metabolism and growth.”
The proposed bill, which passed the Minnesota senate on Tuesday and is now headed back to the state’s House for a procedural vote, will provide free meals for all students in the state, with no income-based restrictions.
According to state Rep. Sydney Jordan, a quarter of Minnesota students who are suffering from poor nutrition do not qualify for existing free or reduced-price lunch programs. This bill “will ensure that every child has the tools—breakfast and lunch—to succeed in school,” Jordan said in February.
The final passage of the bill would make Minnesota the fourth state in the country to provide free lunches to all students, alongside California, Colorado, and Maine.
It is not the first time Drazkowski has opposed measures to ease the burden of educational costs on families. Earlier this month, the Minnesota state senator argued against a proposed increase in early childhood spending. In his view, children should remain at home until at least the age of five before being admitted into public schools, and the educational budget should reflect that.
Opposition to food and nutrition subsidies has increased with the recapture of the House by Republicans in the 2022 midterms. Earlier this month, Congressional Republicans introduced an amendment to a bill that would place increased eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The bill, introduced by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), would raise the age of eligibility for the program from 49 to 65.
In February, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz released an open letter to President Joe Biden urging him to implement work requirements in his proposed welfare reforms. Gaetz urged the administration to “crack down on states’ abuse of waivers for able-bodied adults,” when granting income-assistance benefits.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 35 million Americans, including 9 million children, live with the struggle of food insecurity. While Drazkowski may claim he has never met a person experiencing hunger, he and Republican legislators seem all too willing to ensure that those who do continue to struggle to put food on the table.