Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is resurrecting his proposal to pay for hot school lunches for students who get reduced-priced meals.
“We should really be committed to making sure kids don’t go hungry at school,” Franken said in an interview with the Star Tribune. "It's just wrong."
Franken had lunch Monday with students at Meadow Lake Elementary School in New Hope, saying research is clear that students learn better when they are well nourished.
A member of the Senate Education Committee, Franken introduced the proposal in 2009 and again in 2010, but the measures never became law.
Right now, students whose parents make between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty lines qualify for reduced-priced lunches of 40 cents per meal. Under the proposal, the taxpayers would pick up the tab for those lunches.
It is not clear how much the proposal would cost or how many students would be affected.
One of Franken’s GOP challengers, Mike McFadden, said the issue highlights the differences between the two.
Franken, he said, looks for a federal solution to something that state leaders are already about to tackle.
“We should really look to the state or local government,” McFadden said.
State Sen. Julianne Ortman, Franken’s other GOP challenger, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators are rushing passage of a proposal to have the state pick up the tab for students whose parents can’t pay for reduced-price lunches.
Recent news stories outlined how some Minnesota school districts only offered low-income students cheese sandwiches when their meal accounts ran dry.
Dayton and legislators from both parties said that is completely unacceptable.
The Minnesota House voted overwhelmingly to set aside $3.5 million to pay for those lunches. The Senate is expected to follow suit.
Franken said if his measure becomes law, the federal government would take over the state’s share of the lunches.
“Kids don’t do as well when they are hungry,” he said.
Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores