EDITORIAL: Bipartisan effort takes care of hungry kids

Mar. 18—Thumbs up to the bipartisan passage of a bill that will provide free school breakfast and lunch to all students in Minnesota schools. We can recognize once again Republicans and Democrats working together to serve the people of Minnesota.

The plan proposed by Gov. Tim Walz simply removes the restrictions on free and reduced price lunches for which many students were already eligible. Experts testified that nearly one-quarter of school children are food insecure.

The Senate passed the bill this week on a 38-26 bipartisan vote and the House passed a version of the plan earlier. Walz signed the legislation Friday.

Some Republicans attempted to amend the bill to have an income requirement. And others seemed to be in denial of the problem.

Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said, "I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry." USDA data shows 413,616 people in Minnesota are food insecure.

In the end, some who supported the income-based plan voted for the final version saying feeding kids was more important than adding paperwork.

And the plan will indeed likely reduce paperwork for schools who had to keep track of who was eligible and who was not. The plan will also reduce the stigma for kids' whose families were on the free and reduced lunch programs.

Sen. Heather Gustafson, DFL-Vadnais Heights, sponsor of the bill, likened it to a "lunchbox tax cut" noting it will save families money.

Educational research also shows students learn better when they are not hungry, so the investment in providing everyone a meal should pay dividends in educational achievement.

Sensory initiative

Thumbs up to a unique program that allows area families and teachers to explore kids' sensory needs.

Cultivate Minnesota and Cultivate Mankato have teamed up with Persist Therapy to bring the one-of-a-kind sensory library to the Cultivate Mankato site.

People will be able to check out tools and resources to offer kids sensory support to help with behavior, communication and more. The items available for checkout allow people to try different things without having to commit to buying them.

Teachers say the tools can help kids find a way to communicate so they can work through the behaviors they are experiencing.

According to Persist Therapy the sensory equipment helps the body feel well-regulated so kids can learn skills they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. While those skills may come naturally to many kids, others may need additional help to express themselves.

The effort shows there are new and interesting approaches to helping young kids.

Park progress

Thumbs up to the city of Mankato for beginning discussions on renaming some of its parks.

The move is an attempt to more appropriately name public land that once belonged to Indigenous people. No doubt that critics will accuse the process of being a politically correct move as other places across the state and nation have changed names and monuments.

But really, it's about time. Naming public places after well-established white male leaders is a longtime tradition rooted in history that needs examination and sometimes updating. Yes, there are prominent white men who deserve recognition, but too often the names ignore the realities of the roots of a place and squeezes out others who contributed to the area.

Starting with discussing names for a youth baseball complex near Rosa Parks Elementary and "the Sanger Pit," a walking trail and pond on the site of a former gravel mining operation near Mount Kato is a good strategy. After that, a thorough community discussion will be needed to decide if other park names, such as Sibley Park, should follow.

The Mankato area has taken many steps to make our community a more welcoming one. The names it chooses for more if its public spaces should reflect that.