Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

What’s cooking?

Tim Walz made school lunches free across Minnesota. How has this affected Mounds View?
Photo via Instagram/@mvgovernor

The cafeteria’s energy is noisy as students line up to devour their lunches, hungry from hours of studying. The smell of pasta wafts through the lunchroom as students hurry to get some. It’s Thursday, pasta day, almost every student’s favorite. There appear to be more students than usual, possibly because of the recent policy changes for school lunches in MN. 

This past spring, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into legislation a law that, on March 17, 2023, will allow all students across the state to enjoy free lunches. All 800,000+ students are authorized, regardless of their socioeconomic status. This change aims to offset the price for the many families who cannot afford school lunches.

 In 2020, a similar program was introduced during the pandemic, which reimbursed schools for lunches due to COVID-19 but was discontinued around a year ago. The cost for the first two years is close to $400 million and will keep increasing as the program continues. The program will be funded through federal funds but will use state funds if governmental funds are exhausted. “Well, it wasn’t really that much of a change for us,” says Benjamin Chiri, associate principal at Mounds View Senior High. According to Chiri, the policy was relatively minor for Mounds View as they have had previous experiences with the procedure during the pandemic. 

12.3% of Mounds View High School students qualify for FRPL (free or reduced-price lunch), 221 of the high school’s current 1,794 students. The now-free lunches can narrow the gap between the minority of underprivileged students and students who are privileged enough not to need these services. Many students who had home lunches before are excited, as for many, the cost of lunch was unjustifiable and took a toll as it added up. Junior Kiera Wielinski says, “Another thing besides not eating fast enough was that you have to pay for it all the time. And it’s stressful.” 

For some, being unable to eat due to financial circumstances may be humiliating. “If you don’t have enough money in [your account], it gets really stressful,” said Wielinski. If you’re like trying to walk through there, and then they’re like, “You don’t have enough money in your account to eat, and well, what do I do?”

While the legislation resulted in many unintended outcomes, there is hope that this may improve schools for underprivileged students. “I like that kids have access to nutrition, and our nutrition and our school lunches have to follow the federal guidelines for school lunches and nutritional content, you know, and that includes, like, sodium levels and sugar levels in whole grains and that sort of stuff. So I think it’s good that kids have access to nutritious food,” Chiri says.

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Suha Sharif, Staff Reporter
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