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Gov. Tim Walz signs universal school meals bill into law

Full video: Gov. Tim Walz signs universal school meals bill
Full video: Gov. Tim Walz signs universal school meals bill 07:23

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Tim Walz put his signature on the universal school meals bill Friday afternoon, providing free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students, regardless of their parents' income.

"As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota's working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state," Walz said. "This bill puts us one step closer to making Minnesota the best state for kids to grow up, and I am grateful to all of the legislators and advocates for making it happen."

Schools must enroll in the federal program for free and reduced priced meals to qualify. Under this bill, the state would pick up the tab for the cost difference of covering everyone else who doesn't qualify, which is estimated to be $388 million in the next two-year budget. It increases after that.

One in four food-insecure children don't qualify for support under current federal programs, according to the nonprofit group Hunger Solutions Minnesota. Visits to food shelves hit a record high last year, exceeding the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The program could be operational by summer school in July.

California, Maine and Colorado have taken similar steps to provide universal school meals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some schools already have universal meals because they qualify for what's known as Community Eligibility Provision, which covers the cost for everyone when more than 62% of students are eligible for the free and reduced-price program.

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