Republicans Kill School Lunch Bill


January 22, 2024

Rep. Kadyn Wittman’s bipartisan bill to ensure more children from low income families receive free school meals was killed in the House Education Committee by one vote today. Rep. Wittman thanks the lawmakers, including 6 Republicans, who tried to move the bill onto the next step.

Rep. Wittman as well as the Vice President of Hungry Hearts Jesse Severson, who testified in support of the bill, released the following statements.

“I’m incredibly disappointed by the outcome of this morning’s committee hearing, however there were several bright spots that we need to focus on when it comes to the conversation around school lunches in South Dakota,” said Rep. Wittman. “We had an impressive showing of proponents from across the state, and from a variety of organizations, showcasing how this legislation would support South Dakota kids. The Department of Education did not opposed this bill as they did last year. The only opposition we heard was from the Bureau of Financial Management and their concern was the price tag. I am dedicated to continuing the fight for expansion of school lunch programs and food access for all children in South Dakota.”

This bill was created after months of discussions involving a broad group of stakeholders including school administrators, school nutrition professionals and parents. Providing nutritious meals to students in need ensures they can focus better in school. A well-nourished student is more likely to excel academically, contributing positively to their educational experience and long-term prospects.

It would have cost the state just $578,00 in general funds to cover the difference between the cost of the meal and the federal reimbursement for the reduced category.

“I’m disappointed in the decision,” said Severson. “It’s unfortunate that lawmakers think that T. Denny Sanford and churches can foot the bill for our school lunches. Organizations like Hungry Hearts are already donating to feed our kids. Lawmakers may not think $40,000 is a lot for the Sioux Falls School District, but it does make a big difference. Organizations like ours will now need to double down on our efforts. As school lunch debt continues to grow, we will need bigger donors and more people to step up or our kids will go hungry.”

According to an article from CNN in September, nine states have approved permanent universal free meals programs while others have extended free meals to more students, like Rep. Wittman was trying to accomplish with her bill.

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |