GOP state legislator opposed to free school lunch proposal says he's never met a hungry Minnesotan

But the measure's Democratic author says almost 1 in 6 Minnesota children don’t know when and where their next meals will be available — if at all.


A Republican state senator in Minnesota said Tuesday he was voting against a bill to provide free breakfast and lunch for school students in part because he'd never encountered anyone in the state who was hungry.

“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” Sen. Steve Drazkowski said in remarks on the floor of the State Capitol in St. Paul before voting on the legislation. "I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat.”

"Now, I should say that hunger is a relative term," added Drazkowski, 58. "I had a cereal bar for breakfast. I guess I'm hungry now."

Drazkowski was first elected to the state Senate last year after having Drazkowski in the state House for about 15 years. He represents a district in the southeast part of the state, along the Mississippi River.

Then-Rep. Steve Drazkowski speaks at a news conference in St. Paul, Minn., on July 23, 2019.Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune via AP file

The bill's author, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Sen. Heather Gustafson, said it's estimated that almost 275,000 students in the state get free and reduced-price school meals. She said another 18% of students who would be likely to qualify haven't submitted the necessary paperwork.

"Roughly 1 in 6 children are food insecure — that means they don’t know when and where their next meal will be available, if they get one at all," Gustafson said.

She said passing the measure, which would cost $420 million over the next two years, is “the right thing to do.”

“Being hungry makes learning almost impossible,” Gustafson said. “Let’s feed the kids.”

The measure passed by a vote of 38-26 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz.

Drazkowski called the bill "pure socialism," adding, "This is about the government dictating to kids what they're going to eat and how much they’re going to eat."

He said any additional funding should go to improve overall education. "That's what our schools are for," he said.

Drazkowski’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about his floor remarks.