Minnesota kids will soon get free school lunches across the state, no thanks to a Republican state senator who voted against the bill because he said he’s never met a hungry kid in his state.
“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” Republican state Sen. Steve Drazkowski said Tuesday on the Senate floor in St. Paul before voting against the legislation. “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat.”
Approximately 1 in 6 children in Minnesota are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where or when their next meal will be available, according to a fact sheet from anti-hunger groups in support of the bill.
“Being hungry makes learning almost impossible,” state Sen. Heather Gustafson, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, said on the Senate floor. “Let’s feed the kids.”
During his arguments, Drazkowski called the proposed program “pure socialism.”
“Now, I should say that hunger is a relative term,” Drazkowski added. “I had a cereal bar for breakfast. I guess I’m hungry now.”
If Drazkowski wanted to find one of those hungry children he claims to have “yet to meet,” he could check the very county he represents. In Wabasha County, more than 8% of kids lived in poverty in 2021, up from about 7% the previous year, according to the Federal Reserve of Economic Data.
Despite Drazkowski’s opposition, the measure passed by a vote of 38-26 and is expected to be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. Once signed, Minnesota will join other states, including California and Colorado, in giving free meals to kids.