Last year–when Democrats had control of the legislature– $4 million was allocated to expand school lunch and breakfast programs in Minnesota. Of that amount, $569,000 was spent to provide free breakfasts for all Minnesota public-school kindergartners.
Governor Dayton had wanted to go a step further and spend an additional $28.1 million over the next two years to provide breakfast for every Minnesota Prek-3rd grader, regardless of income. Dayton didn’t get the money in the final budget negotiations, but he’s not backing down and included the lack of funding for PreK and 1st grade breakfasts as part of his rationale for vetoing the K-12 omnibus bill.
Some public school districts in Minnesota– like St. Paul–are already providing free meals to all students. The 2010 federal “Healthy and Hunger-free Schools Act” expanded free lunch and breakfast to all kids– regardless of household income– in any school district with greater than 40% of kids who already qualified for free or reduced lunch subsidies. The same law expanded funding for after-school meals and summer school meal programs.
Total federal funding for all school nutrition programs was $16.3 billion in 2014 per the Federal Education Budget Project and as of 2013, only 30% of children were paying the school’s full-price amount for their lunch.
Governor Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt continue to negotiate additional education spending ahead of the upcoming special session.