The old adage states, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

But some local activists would like to change that.

Carrie Frank of Dover-Eyota and Brenton Lexvold from Red Wing, both members of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, are proponents of universal free lunch for students.

The need is evident. For example, more than 33% of students in Olmsted County qualify for the existing free or reduced-price lunch program. In Mower County, it is more than 50%

The idea behind universal free lunches has been around for years, but it's getting a closer look due to the pandemic. Students stopped eating lunch at school, so schools started using buses to distribute sack lunches and breakfasts to both students and parents. All for free.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Frank and Lexvold have been meeting with state lawmakers to pitch a universal free-meal program.

Though the program would obviously require funding, local schools would no longer be on the hook for unpaid meal debt. And, since every student would be on the same program, any stigma now associated with the existing free or reduced price program would disappear.

A universal free lunch program would:

  • Ensure that all students have access to meals.
  • Provide cost savings by eliminating school lunch debt.
  • Eliminate the stigma associated with the existing free or reduced price lunch program.

But most importantly, it would help eliminate one of the greatest impediments to learning: Hunger.