School lunch times

Groups in Minnesota concerned with fighting hunger are pressing state lawmakers to approve bills addressing the issue of “lunch-shaming” in schools and funding for mobile food-shelves. (Metro Creative Connection)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Groups in Minnesota concerned with fighting hunger are pressing state lawmakers to approve bills addressing the issue of “lunch-shaming” in schools and funding for mobile food-shelves. Those are the top priorities of the annual “Hunger Day on the Hill” at the State Capitol.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said they hope to drive the message home to lawmakers that approval of these bills is vital. She said the school lunch bill would go a long way toward reducing students’ public humiliation over lunch room debt.

“The elimination of lunch-shaming really includes alleviating the conversation that happens between a child and a food-service person or a teacher or anyone, and elevates it to a discussion that happens between adults,” Moriarty said.

She said they also want the state to adjust the threshold to qualify for school lunch programs so more families can get help.

According to 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, 6 million children live households in which children and adults, were food insecure. About 540,000 children (0.7 percent of the nation’s children) lived in households in which one or more child experienced very low food security.

About 8.6% of Rice County residents are food insecure compared to 9.1% of Minnesotans overall, according to data from Feeding America. The rate is much higher for children alone, 13.7%

The mobile food-shelf bill would reauthorize grant money so these trucks can continue to be dispatched to communities in need. Moriarty said there are roughly 30 such trucks operating across the state.

She said at a time when the Trump administration wants to tighten eligibility for federal food assistance programs, the state needs to be ready to step in.

“Rather than bricks-and-mortar response, these food-shelf vehicles — outfitted with food — can really help to stem the tide of need in locations where it just isn’t possible to have a bricks-and-mortar response,” she said.

Hunger Day on the Hill is Thursday. Minnesota lawmakers approved a two-year budget last year. This session is focused on whether there should be additional spending from the state’s projected surplus of more than $1 billion.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

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