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House OKs plugging school lunch funding hole

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota students would be guaranteed school lunches if senators agree with a House vote.

By 130-0, representatives Thursday approved pumping $3.5 million into the school lunch program.

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The action came after a February report showed some school districts refused to provide food for students who forgot their lunch money or could not afford to pay. Some reports indicated meals students already had picked up were thrown in the trash.

“No child should go through any shame, worry or embarrassment as they make their way through the lunch line in any school,” Rep. Yvonne Selcer, D-Minnetonka, said about her bill.

The federal government pays most costs of school lunches and other meals and the state pays 12.5 cents. That leaves 40 cents for students to pay, but not all families can afford it.

Some school districts may absorb the 40 cents, while others refuse to feed students if they can’t pay. Selcer’s bill pays that 40-cent difference.

“This is a great opportunity, members, to make a statement that no child should go hungry in a Minnesota school,” she told fellow representatives.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said he would prefer that rather than the state paying for lunches that individuals should receive tax breaks for donating to food service programs. Gruenhagen said he fears the state could mismanage the money.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.