GOP Lawmaker Says Hungry People Don’t Exist Because He’s Never Met One

In 2022 alone, people in his state made more than 5.5 million visits to food pantries.

As the Minnesota state senate debated a bill meant to provide more free school meals to kids living in poverty, one Republican senator’s rationale for voting against it was simple: those kids don’t exist.

While many of his GOP colleagues argued against the cost of Senate Bill 12—$200 million annually—State Sen. Steve Drazkowski cast doubt on the idea that hungry families exist in his state at all.

“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat,” State Sen. Steve Drazkowski said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “We need to make sure, if we’re going to develop more food welfare programs, and force them on the kids and families in the state of Minnesota, we got to make sure that they’re not at least riddled with the type of fraud that basically is stealing from the people of Minnesota.”

Drazkowski, who served the state House for 13 years prior to being elected to the Senate in 2022, called the measure “pure socialism” and part of the state’s attempt to control what kids eat. He mocked the idea of hungry kids, adding that the term “hunger” is relative.


“I had a cereal bar for breakfast, I guess I’m hungry now,” he said. “Maybe that’s the definition in the bill, I don’t know, I didn’t see a definition of hunger in the bill. But I think most reasonable people suggest hunger means you don’t have enough to eat in order to provide for metabolism and growth.”

That is, indeed, the definition of hunger, and it’s also exactly what the bill aims to fix. While nearly 275,000 kids get free or reduced-price meals in Minnesota schools, at least 18 percent of students in grades K through 12  who could qualify for those benefits aren’t getting them because their families haven’t submitted the necessary paperwork to make them eligible.

“Roughly one in six children are food insecure,” said Democrat Sen. Heather Gustafson, who wrote the bill for universal school lunches, on Tuesday. “That means they don’t know where or when their next meal will be available if they get one at all.

In 2022 alone, Minnesotans made more than 5.5 million visits to the state’s 476 food pantries, according to Hunger Solutions Minnesota. At least 61,000 Minnesota children live in poverty, the Star Tribune reported last September. According to Gustafson, one in five kids in Drazkowski’s own district qualifies for free or reduced price meals at school.

“Being hungry makes learning almost impossible,” she said on the Senate floor. “There is no worksheet, or assignment, test, or project that will matter to a student who hasn’t had anything to eat.”

The bill passed along party lines with 38 votes in favor and 24 against, and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the bill into law in the near future. Drazkowski’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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