Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Schools need lunch money

Published (3/6/2009)
By Kris Berggren
Share on: 



Two bills would keep school lunches accessible to students whose families are dealing with kitchen table concerns.

More families are applying for free- or reduced-cost lunch eligibility, Sherri Knutson, Minnesota School Nutrition Association public policy chairwoman, told the House K-12 Education Finance Division Feb. 26. She said some school food service directors report that even some students who pay full price are skimping now.

“Mom and dad are giving them money to eat maybe only twice a week because there just isn’t enough household money to spare,” Knutson said.

Rochester Public Schools, where Knutson coordinates school nutrition services, has approved 346 applications for reduced-cost lunch since November, compared with 122 in the same period last year.

Susan Richardson, Roseville Area Schools’ nutrition services coordinator, said 1,800 of 6,500 families in the district qualify for free lunches. Though another 500 qualify for reduced-cost meals, about a quarter can’t pay the 40 cents they’re charged.

HF784, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids), would increase the state reimbursement for reduced priced meals from 12 cents to 52 cents per meal, and require that schools offer reduced priced meals at no cost to eligible students. Its estimated price tag is $3.5 million annually.

Sponsored by Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka), HF252 would increase state aid to school food programs from 12 cents to 15 cents per meal. It’s estimated to cost $3 million per year.

School food programs are raising money and saving costs, testifiers said. For example, sales of a la carte snacks, such as chips and cookies, often help underwrite higher prices for fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains — even as the high-fat snacks undermine today’s stricter nutrition standards. Rochester and dozens of other districts economize through membership in buying groups. Some schools subsidize meals for those who can’t pay from unclaimed funds from former students’ lunch accounts. Still, as the number of paid meals decreases, said Knutson, costs per meal increase.

Both bills were held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus education finance bill. Their respective companions, SF856, sponsored by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer), and SF1015, sponsored by Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), await action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

Session Weekly More...


Session Weekly Home



Related Stories


The year without a K-12 law
School funding is flat, no reforms enacted
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

House K-12 omnibus bill fast-tracked
Senate slow to respond with companion legislation
(view full story) Published 5/13/2010

K-12 education omnibus bill stalls
Teacher licensure proposals in contention
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010

K-12 education bill moves forward
Measures would activate reforms, stabilize school funding
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010

Resuscitating Race to the Top bid
New bid could hinge on proposals to boost teacher effectiveness
(view full story) Published 4/22/2010

Raiders of the lost fund
Slew of reforms could boost Permanent School Fund income
(view full story) Published 3/25/2010

Schools shore up state’s checkbook
Obscure law forces drawdown of school reserves before state can borrow
(view full story) Published 2/25/2010

At Issue: No shifts, no cuts
Education funding in a holding pattern
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

At Issue: E-12 education bill that might have been
Funding held steady with no shifts proposed, but no Minnesota Miracle
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

At Issue: Investing in quality care for kids
Lawmakers hope for long-term benefits of early investment
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

At Issue: Building a better formula
Omnibus K-12 education finance bill floor debate highlights obstacles
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

At Issue: Whose values are they anyway?
Lawmaker carries on family legacy with sex education bill
(view full story) Published 4/17/2009

First Reading: One school doesn’t fit all
Efforts put forward to tailor charter school law
(view full story) Published 4/10/2009

At Issue: Hopeful education goals in a dismal year
Omnibus bill addresses changing needs and future demands
(view full story) Published 4/3/2009

At Issue: Getting kids to move
Bill aims to ensure ‘No child left on their behind’
(view full story) Published 2/20/2009

First Reading: Accountability funding for all
A ‘New Minnesota Miracle’ requires a leap of faith
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009

At Issue: Q Comp found wanting
Performance measure has perks, but is it affordable?
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

At Issue: Reforming education, saving money
Bipartisan support shown for mandate reduction and shared services
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

Feature: Passing the torch of democracy
Youth immerse themselves in lingo and actions of lawmaking
(view full story) Published 1/16/2009