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Why a GOP rep claimed he’s never met a hungry person in his state

“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” a Minnesota Republican said while explaining his opposition to free meals for school children.


Minnesota’s state Senate this week considered legislation to provide public-school students access to free meals, and the bill’s author, state Sen. Heather Gustafson, made a compelling case. The Democratic legislator explained that roughly one in six children in the state face food insecurity, and providing them with school meals would make a world of difference.

“Being hungry makes learning almost impossible,” Gustafson said. “Let’s feed the kids.”

As NBC News reported, one of her colleagues didn’t quite see it that way.

A Republican state senator in Minnesota said Tuesday he was voting against a bill to provide free breakfast and lunch for school students in part because he’d never encountered anyone in the state who was hungry.

That summary might sound like an exaggeration. It’s not.

“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” state Sen. Steve Drazkowski said in his floor remarks. “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat.”

It’s a striking perspective. This Republican lawmaker hasn’t met Minnesotans struggling with food insecurity, so therefore, he doesn’t see the point in providing food to hungry children.

There are a handful of angles to this that are worth keeping in mind as the story gains national attention. The first is that families struggling with food insecurity exist, whether politicians know them personally or not. A Washington Post report noted, “There were 5.5 million visits to Minnesotan food pantries in 2022, a record high and an increase of 1.9 million visits from the previous year, according to the nonprofit Hunger Solutions Minnesota.”

“If he’s never met anyone who’s hungry, he’s not looking,” Colleen Moriarty, the nonprofit’s executive director, told the Post. “His eyes may not be open.”

Let’s also pause to note that Drazkowski might very well have met Minnesotans who don’t have access to enough food to eat, though he might not have known it. People who are hungry don’t always look a certain way. They don’t wear signs saying, “I’m struggling with food insecurity.” It might not have occurred to them to tell a GOP state senator about their dietary difficulties.

In other words, as Drazkowski argued, “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” my follow-up question would be, “Are you sure?”

But I’m also interested in the near future. If this Republican legislator were to take the time to visit different communities, meet families struggling to put food on the table, and speak with young people who go to school hungry, would it alter his perspective? Would he rethink his opposition to bills like the one that reached the state Senate floor yesterday? Would it have any effect on his governing vision at all?

Ultimately, Drazkowski’s argument — to the extent that one could characterize it as an argument — proved unpersuasive. The bill passed the Democratic-led chamber with four GOP votes. Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, said he’ll be “proud to sign it into law.”