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The state’s GOP senator says he’s never met a starving Minnesotan


A Republican Minnesota state senator said on Tuesday he was voting against a bill to provide free breakfast and lunch to school children, in part because he had never met anyone in the hungry state.

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

“Now I have to say that hunger is a relative term,” the 58-year-old lawmaker added. “I had a granola bar for breakfast. Guess I’m hungry now.”

Drazkowski was first elected to the state Senate in 2022 after serving about 15 years in the State House. It represents a district in the southeastern part of the state, along the Mississippi River.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, speaks during a press conference, Tuesday, July 23, 2019, St. Paul, Minn.  Minnesota state lawmakers and a conservative group have announced they are seeking ethics investigations of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar for a range of alleged offenses.  Both Drazkowski and Judicial Watch say Omar may have committed immigration fraud by marrying someone they say is his brother.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, speaks during a press conference, in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 23, 2019.Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP File

The bill’s author, Democrat-Farmer-Labour Senator Heather Gustafson, said nearly 275,000 students are estimated to benefit from free and reduced-price school meals in the state. She said 18% of students likely to qualify have not submitted the necessary documents to do so.

“About one in six children are food insecure — that means they don’t know when or where their next meal will be available, if they receive one,” 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 nearly impossible,” Gustafson said. “Let’s feed the children.

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

Drazkowski called the bill “pure socialism. It’s about the government telling kids what they’re going to eat and how much they’re going to eat.”

He said any additional funding should go towards improving education in general. “That’s what our schools are for,” he said.

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

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.