Maybe Governor Walz will hop the border and come have a beer at Severance Brewing….
Even with federal support for low-charge/no-charge meals for low-income K-12 students, there are still lots of South Dakota families on the income borderline who struggle to pay for their kids meals at school. Scott Heckel of Severance Brewing Company is working to prevent student hunger through charity:
This Friday starting at 4:40 p.m. we are going to have Taverns and Tots in here. They are going to be serving a school lunch-inspired meal and then giving ten percent of all their proceeds to the cause. We are also going from 4:40 to 7:30 p.m. giving a dollar per pint. We have music in here and then Ben from Causal Campfire will be setting up his shop as well,” said Scott Heckel, Severance Brewing Co. owner.
…“There’s over $100,000 in debt right now for Sioux Falls public schools, and when we heard they were trying to put an initiative together to try and clear all of that out and then create a sustainable way for kids to actually continue to get meals at school, we knew that was something we wanted to hop on board,” said Heckel.
In a statement to Dakota News Now, the Sioux Falls School District said, “Healthy meals are important to a student’s academic success. Income-eligible families can apply for free or reduced-priced meals. However, there are always children who barely miss the income eligibility and whose families are still struggling. We are blessed to live in a community that recognizes this need and steps up to fulfill it” [Baylee Peterson, “Sioux Falls Businesses Raise Funds to Settle Student Lunch Debt,” KSFY, 2023.03.20].
Minnesotans, too, are blessed to live in a community that recognizes the need for students to eat and steps up to fill their tummies. Governor Tim Walz signed a bill last Friday to have the state pick up the tab for every school meal starting this fall:
During the signing ceremony, Walz told Minnesota parents this will ease some of the stress on them.
“If you’re looking for good news, this was certainly the place to be,” said Walz. “I’m honored and I do think this is one piece of that puzzle in reducing both childhood poverty and hunger insecurity.”
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was also at the ceremony. She said this was the most important thing she’d ever worked on.
…It will cost the state of Minnesota close to $400 million in the first two years and grow in price in the future. It covers the cost of meals, but not of second helpings or of separate a la carte items.
…Darcy Stueber is the director of Nutrition Services for Mankato Area Public Schools and she’s also the Public Policy Chair of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association.
Stueber says her district is seeing just over $80,000 in school lunch debt at this point in the year, so there is a definite need families in her area have for this. She says many of those struggling to pay are single-income households that work hard, don’t make enough to pay for meal programs, but make too much to qualify for free meals. Stueber says providing meals is just another basic necessity for learning
“We don’t charge for Chromebooks and desks and things like that,” she said. “It’s a part of their day and they’re there for so many hours. It just completes that whole learning experience for the child” [Elizabeth Shockman, “Walz Signs Universal School Meals Bill into Minnesota Law,” MPR News, 2023.03.17].
Minnesota joins California, Colorado, and Maine in adopting permanent state funding for feeding every child at school. Massachusetts, Nevada, and Vermont are temporarily covering school meal costs. Several other states are considering fully subsidizing school meals, because well-fed kids learn more, stay healthier, and thus cost the state less, earn more money, and pay more taxes when they are older.
South Dakota could have beat Governor Walz to the punch—er, milk and sloppy joes—with rookie Representative Kadyn Wittman’s (D-15/Sioux Falls) House Bill 1221, which would have invested $38.6 million a year to cover every South Dakota student’s school meals, but the Noem Administration made sure that perfectly affordable proposal died in committee.
Hmmm…I appreciate Scott Heckel’s energy and generosity (and again, Severance Brewing Company’s student-lunch-debt fundraiser is this Friday, March 24, after work), but evidence suggests South Dakotans are not blessed to live in a community that recognizes the need to feed children and steps up to fulfill it… or at least not as blessed as Minnesotans.