Hunger-relief advocates speak on proposed bills addressing free school lunch & lunch shaming
“No child in North Dakota should fail in school or lie in bed sleepless due to hunger.”
FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Local non-profit organizations tied to hunger-relief, along with members of the Fargo school board, joined together at the Great Plains Food Bank to talk about bills making their way through the North Dakota legislature.
They’re focusing in on legislation regarding free school lunches and an end to lunch shaming.
“No child in North Dakota should fail in school or lie in bed sleepless due to hunger,” says YWCA’s Julie Haugen.
Advocates for free school lunches are rallying around HB 1491 and 1494.
1491 started out as a universal free lunch plan, but has since been amended to instead add 10,000 students to the no-cost, hot lunch plan.
“We are grateful, I think we can push this further,” says Lunch Aid’s Jason Boynton.
1494 mirrors a policy the Fargo School District has had since 2019.
“We have not been sending families to collections. We have not been offering alternative meals,” says Fargo School Board’s Robin Nelson.
Even though 1494 wouldn’t change things for FPS students, Nelson says the bill would change the lives of students across the state: as many families were caught off-guard after free meals stopped, after COVID-time federal aid ended.
“Think about it, inflation started to take place, food started to become more expensive, energy costs, everything. There’s only so many dollars they have in their pocket book. I think that’s why we’re seeing these exponential increases,” says Nelson.
Haugen says most times kids who come to their shelter haven’t been in school before they get there. So, they get them back in.
“Last year, we achieved that goal 94% of the time. Funding for school meals for low-income families places North Dakota squarely alongside YWCA and our partners here today in mitigating the adverse childhood experiences that could otherwise damage their physical or mental health,” says Haugen.
Advocates say: it’s something the state can afford.
“North Dakota is rich. We have $8 billion in a legacy fund. We can afford to do this. $6 million is drop in a bucket for us. We can afford the $89 million biennium to pay for a school meal for every public school student in the state,” says Boynton.
Opponents say universal free lunch would be too expensive and unnecessary, because of existing food programs.
We’ll keep you updated on this bill as it goes through legislature. You can stay informed on ValleyNewsLive.com or your VNL News app.
Copyright 2023 KVLY. All rights reserved.