People & Practices: March 20, 2023

People & Practices: March 20, 2023

Heather J. Kliebenstein (left) and Tracey R. Skjeveland

Heather J. Kliebenstein (left) and Tracey R. Skjeveland

Merchant & Gould names Kliebenstein managing director

Merchant & Gould P.C., a national technology and innovation law firm, has announced that Heather J. Kliebenstein, a Minneapolis shareholder who joined in 2004, has been named managing director of Merchant & Gould’s seven offices, effective Jan. 30, succeeding Christopher J. Leonard. She joins Tracey R. Skjeveland, the firm’s COO and CFO, and leads a three-person Executive Committee.

Kliebenstein will remain client-focused, while Skjeveland manages day-to-day operations. Kliebenstein and the Executive Committee will steer the firm and provide direction for long-range planning and growth.

Kliebenstein is the firm’s first female managing director in its 123-year history, and the Kliebenstein-Skjeveland duo is focused on a more modern and collaborative approach to leadership.

“Our industry is ready to increase the role of women in leadership — supporting the unique perspective and diversity of thinking for our clients, industry, and community. Inclusion and innovation are at the core of Merchant & Gould’s principles and culture, and these values have never been more important,” said Kliebenstein.

As an IP litigator with a technical background, Kliebenstein represents her clients in court and counsels those clients regarding intellectual property portfolio strategy. She specializes in trademark, trade dress, copyright, advertising, unfair competition, breach of contract, patent, design patent and trade secret litigation, particularly cases that intertwine multiple intellectual properties, contracts and other federal or state claims. Kliebenstein is the former chair of Merchant & Gould’s Litigation Practice.

Skjeveland joined Merchant & Gould in 1999 as a financial analyst. In 2006, she was named CFO. In 2014, Skjeveland was named the firm’s COO.

“We are becoming more process oriented and streamlined to allow us to grow our technology and innovation focus. More than ever, it has become abundantly clear that our platform is highly desirable in the IP legal market,” said Skjeveland.

Arthur Chapman welcomes attorney Arianna D. Chapman

Arianna D. Chapman

Arianna D. Chapman

Attorney Arianna D. Chapman has joined Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak & Pikala, P.A.

Chapman’s practice focuses in automobile law, commercial transportation, and general liability. She has experience representing clients in various areas of civil litigation. Chapman also worked as a trial paralegal for six years before starting law school at Mitchell Hamline.

While in law school, Chapman pursued a certificate from the highly ranked Dispute Resolution Institute at Mitchell Hamline. She won a regional championship as part of the Mediation-Representation team at Mitchell Hamline.

Inayah J. Smith-Marsette

Inayah J. Smith-Marsette

Arthur Chapman welcomes attorney Smith-Marsette

Attorney Inayah J. Smith-Marsette has joined Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak & Pikala.

Smith-Marsette focuses her practice on Minnesota workers’ compensation law. She graduated from Delaware State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and a minor in forensic science. She earned her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in December 2021. She clerked for Franklin Reed, referee of Hennepin County District Court, and Toddrick S. Barnette, chief judge of Hennepin County District Court.

In law school, Inayah served as chief justice of the Moot Court Board, resource editor of the Law Review Board, president of the Black Law Students Association, and vice president of Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society.

Spencer Fane adds employment lawyer Ojoyeyi

Toni Ojoyeyi has joined Spencer Fane LLP’s Labor and Employment practice group as an associate in the firm’s Minneapolis office.

Ojoyeyi counsels clients on the implementation of effective best practices and policies regarding employee matters while helping them navigate an increasingly complex regulatory and compliance environment for businesses. Her preventive law approach helps employers to avoid employer-employee disputes and potentially costly litigation.

Her practice also entails conducting workplace investigations, compliance training, and the defense of employment-related claims.

“Toni brings to her employment law  practice impressive global credentials and proven advocacy skills that are valuable to her clients,” said Donald G. Heeman, office managing partner for Spencer Fane in Minneapolis.

Ojoyeyi, who received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Minnesota, is a leader in the Twin Cities legal community, presently serving on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers and the Hennepin County Bar Association.

Privacy attorney Hammer joins Husch Blackwell

Brad Hammer has joined Husch Blackwell’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation business unit and Data Privacy and Cybersecurity group as a partner. A resident of the Minneapolis metropolitan area, Hammer is based in the firm’s virtual Link office and is the seventh Minnesota-based lawyer to join the firm since May 2022.

In just over a decade of private practice, Hammer has established himself in the area of data privacy law. Hammer founded Vakaris Group in 2016 as a boutique firm that provided data privacy law capabilities to clients spanning numerous industries and sizes. His legal counsel encompasses a range of data privacy law matters, including international compliance issues, privacy program development, implementation, and maintenance, due diligence and vendor management, and breach/incident response.

“The scale and scope of data privacy concerns faced by our clients are growing by the day, and Brad’s ability to distill the complexities of data privacy law into clear, actionable advice is something our clients will appreciate,” said Jeffrey Sigmund, the head of Husch Blackwell’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation group.

Said Hammer, “I’m excited to bring my practice to a law firm that shares my vision of providing innovative, client-centric legal services. Pairing this model to compliance advice with the fantastic resources and privacy team at Husch Blackwell will only serve to improve my clients’ experience and outcomes.”

Top row, from left: Christopher Dolan, Amy Fiterman, Steve Lokensgard. Bottom row, from left: Erica MacDonald, Dan Prokott

Top row, from left: Christopher Dolan, Amy Fiterman, Steve Lokensgard. Bottom row, from left: Erica MacDonald, Dan Prokott

Faegre Drinker announces appointments

Faegre Drinker has announced its 2023 practice group leadership appointments — including Christopher Dolan, Amy Fiterman, Steve Lokensgard, Erica MacDonald, Dan Prokott and Scott Wright, all based out of the firm’s Minneapolis office.

Practice Group Leadership

The following attorneys will be appointed to practice group and industry team leadership positions on April.

Minneapolis partner Amy Fiterman succeeds Joe Tanner as Faegre Drinker’s product liability and mass torts practice group leader. Fiterman serves clients as trial, national, regional or local counsel in actions most often involving mass torts and multidistrict litigation for a variety of products, with a focus on the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Minneapolis partner Steve Lokensgard succeeds Jeffrey Ganiban as Faegre Drinker’s health care practice leader. Lokensgard advises health care clients on regulatory and compliance issues, investigations and transactions. Special areas of focus include digital health and pharmacy issues.

Deputy Practice Group Leadership

Effective Jan. 1, Indianapolis partner Andrew Campbell, Minneapolis partner Christopher Dolan and partner Traci McKee have been appointed deputy practice group leaders of Faegre Drinker’s product liability and mass torts practice under incoming practice group leader Amy Fiterman. Dolan represents clients in complex environmental litigation and helps clients reduce risk and operate successfully within environmental laws and regulations.

Practice Team Leadership

The following attorneys were appointed to practice team leadership positions on Jan. 1.

Minneapolis partner Erica MacDonald and Washington, D.C., partner Henry Van Dyck succeeded partner Nicholas Klinefeldt as co-leaders of Faegre Drinker’s white collar defense and investigations team. MacDonald is a former U.S. Attorney and district court judge who serves clients in white collar defense, internal investigations, trial strategies and quasi-judicial matters such as monitorships.

Minneapolis partner Dan Prokott has succeeded Susan Kline as leader of Faegre Drinker’s labor and employment group’s compliance, training and transactions team. Prokott advises businesses regarding complex workplace matters. He represents employers of all sizes, including multinational public and private companies, established and emerging private businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

Minneapolis partner Scott Wright became leader of Faegre Drinker’s labor and employment group’s immigration team. Recognized nationally for his proficiency in I-9 and immigration compliance matters, Wright counsels on immigration issues that arise in employment decisions, mergers and acquisitions, government audits and investigations, and labor law disputes.

People & Practices is a lightly edited compilation of news releases from law firms and other organizations. Minnesota Lawyer welcomes news about hires, promotions and other activities in the legal profession. Send releases (and photos if desired) to [email protected].

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Minnesota House to vote on Reproductive Freedom Defense Act Monday

Minnesota House to vote on Reproductive Freedom Defense Act Monday

Minnesota House to vote on Reproductive Freedom Defense Act Monday

Minnesota House to vote on Reproductive Freedom Defense Act Monday


ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Monday, a bill protecting reproductive freedom is up for a vote on the House floor.

The Reproductive Freedom Defense act is a bill designed to protect abortion providers and patients in Minnesota. It’s focused on protecting them from legal consequences in other states that do have criminal or civil penalties for abortion within their borders.

It would prohibit extraditing, arresting or releasing medical records of people who obtained a legal abortion in Minnesota, but may live in a state where abortions are banned or seriously restricted.

READ MORE: North Dakota Supreme Court keeps in place block on state’s abortion ban

Providers would not face disciplinary action by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, including the refusal to grant a state license, if they are convicted of providing an abortion elsewhere in the country where it is illegal. The bill would also prevent the enforcement of a subpoena issued in Minnesota or another state, if it’s related to a case about ending a pregnancy.  

So far, seven states have enacted similar “shield” laws: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. ahead of the 3:30 p.m. session on the House floor.

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FAQ: What are DFL lawmakers proposing next on abortion?

FAQ: What are DFL lawmakers proposing next on abortion?

Minnesota lawmakers on Monday are set to consider a bill that would offer legal protection for out-of-state patients who travel to Minnesota for abortions and for the providers that treat them.

The move could guard both groups against laws on the books in dozens of other states where abortion is banned or heavily restricted, and where abortion providers and those seeking to terminate a pregnancy face legal penalties.

It’s the latest step by DFL leaders at the Capitol to make Minnesota a legal safe haven for abortion and it comes after lawmakers earlier this year guaranteed the right to reproductive  health care — including abortion — in state law.

The latest proposal, called the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, has generated little blowback on its path through the Capitol and is expected to pass the DFL-led House. It is still moving through Senate committees. Another measure, known as the Reproductive Freedom Codification Act, is also nearing a vote in the House and Senate but is expected to draw more criticism.

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Before Monday’s vote, here’s a little more about the bills and how they would change the legal landscape for abortion in Minnesota.

What’s up for debate on Monday?

The Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday is set to weigh House File 366, a proposal that would prevent state courts or officials from complying with extraditions, arrests or subpoenas related to reproductive health care that a person receives in Minnesota.

“What we’re doing is essentially enacting a type of shield to say that whatever happens in Minnesota, as long as it’s legal in Minnesota, that it stays in Minnesota,” bill author Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, said. “And we won’t allow people from other states who are seeking to criminalize people just seeking their health care to persecute them.”

It would also allow a person facing an abortion-related case against them in another state to countersue for the costs, damages and attorney’s fees associated with defending the case.

The DFL-led House is expected to pass the bill Monday, and the Senate is poised to take it up.

A group of state legislators inside the Capitol.

Rep. Esther Agbaje, D-Minneapolis, speaks to reporters outside of the House chamber in St. Paul on Feb. 28.

Mohamed Ibrahim | AP Photo 2022

Supporters, including reproductive rights groups, medical associations and abortion providers, say the bill is important because it would block legal action from other states where abortion is banned or heavily restricted. 

The effort comes in response to abortion laws around the country that have created penalties for those seeking to terminate a pregnancy and for medical providers that offer abortion services. 

Laws on the books in Texas and Oklahoma, allow private citizens there to sue anyone they believe has “aided or abetted” in obtaining an abortion in the state, and make them eligible to receive $10,000 or more. Several other states have bans or restrictions in place that can result in felony charges for those who provide abortions outside the narrow legal landscapes they’ve created.

Dr. Joseph Nelson is a family physician who moved from Texas to Minnesota after Texas lawmakers enacted laws restricting access to abortion and setting civil and criminal penalties for providers.

Nelson, who works at Whole Woman’s Health in Bloomington, said Minnesota’s legal landscape is easier for him to navigate. But abortion providers in Minnesota would feel even more secure treating out-of-state patients if lawmakers passed House File 366, he said.

“I would know for sure that anyone coming from an outside state wouldn’t be treated differently,” Nelson said following a committee hearing earlier this year. “It would also mean that many more providers who are comfortable providing these services would feel comfortable helping out with the huge demand that’s going to be continuing to come our way as more and more restrictions continue to get passed.”

Why is debate over another bill expected to be tougher?

Minnesota lawmakers are also weighing Senate File 70, a bill that would strike dozens of state restrictions on abortion and repeal various outdated laws around sodomy, fornication and adultery.

Abortion access groups and providers have championed the changes and said they should be approved to excise onerous restrictions on abortion providers and protect patients’ privacy. Meanwhile, opponents said striking the language goes too far in removing reasonable restrictions collecting important data. 

If approved, it would remove the viability standard, end some mandated reporting from abortion providers about when and how people access abortion services, and drop restrictions around waiting periods, parental notification and other provisions that were struck down last year by a Ramsey County judge.

The bill could soon reach floor debate in either chamber and it has already drawn backlash from GOP lawmakers and abortion opponents who say that it goes beyond what most Minnesotans want in terms of regulations on abortion.

Why are lawmakers putting forward these changes?

DFL lawmakers are pushing forward the proposals to remove from state law restrictions on abortion that were tossed out by Judge Thomas Gilligan last year, as well as requirements they view as overly taxing for providers and patients. They also seek to remove outdated provisions on other topics from state law.

After the Supreme Court last year reversed the federal constitutional right to an abortion, Minnesota Democrats said the state should do more to affirm the right to an abortion care here. 

They’ve also said that the Legislature should take the time now to remove restrictions from statute, so that they can’t be enforced if future courts come down differently on the right to abortion under the Minnesota Constitution.

“We have the duty to make and pass the policy and repeal bad policy. And these anti-abortion restrictions, in addition to being unconstitutional, are bad policy. They harm patients, they harm providers, and they push care and access out of reach,” said Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, who’s carrying the bill in the state Senate. 

A Black woman smile for a posed photo

Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

Which restrictions would be repealed under that bill? 

Senate File 70 would wipe from the state’s books dozens of provisions that deal with abortion. Among them: 

  • Requirements that a minor seeking an abortion notify both parents (ruled unconstitutional July 2022)

  • Requirements that abortion providers give summary data to the state on patients, including where they live, what level of education they have and the estimated gestation age at which the abortion was performed

  • Setting a penalty for providers that fail to report that information (ruled unconstitutional in 2022)

  • Regulations on how fetal remains must be disposed of after an abortion or miscarriage

  • Language around viability and definitions that identify abortion as a criminal act except under specific circumstances (provisions ruled unconstitutional in 1976)

  • A requirement that only physicians can perform abortions (ruled unconstitutional in 2022)

  • Requirements that abortion providers take reasonable measures to preserve the life and health of a fetus if an abortion performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy results in a live birth

  • Limits on state funding to organizations that provide abortions 

  • Setting a criminal penalty for producing, selling or a giving a drug that can produce a miscarriage or abortion and for providing information about how to access that drug

The bill would also eliminate other criminal penalties on the books that haven’t been enforced in decades, including criminal penalties for sodomy, sex between a man and a single woman, and adultery when a woman engages in sex with someone other than her husband.

The full text of the bill and what it would change is here.

Which of those has the court addressed?

Back in July, Ramsey County Judge Gilligan ruled that several of these statutes violated the Minnesota state constitution. Since that ruling, these laws have been enjoined by the court and thus made unenforceable. Those include the parental notification requirements and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.

After Attorney General Keith Ellison declined to appeal Gilligan’s ruling, several people have attempted to intervene in the case. They include Traverse County Attorney Matthew Franzese, whose case is currently before the state Court of Appeals.

Those who have sought to appeal the ruling argue that lawmakers shouldn’t remove the laws while the effort to intervene is pending.

People talk about Senate File 70 removing all limits on later abortions, is that true?

The bill would strike Minnesota’s fetal viability threshold, which stipulates that a provider can’t perform an abortion after a fetus could live outside the womb unless a patient’s life or health are at risk. Viability is typically held to be between 23 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

That law also requires that abortions be performed in a hospital and must “assure the live birth and survival of the fetus” to the extent possible.

State law stipulates that it’s a felony to provide an abortion after viability outside of those constraints. But the reality on the ground is murkier.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1976 ruled that Minnesota’s law restricting abortions after viability was unconstitutional. And that made pieces of the law unenforceable. 

Despite that, abortions after the viability threshold have been exceedingly rare, both locally and nationally. There are no clinics in Minnesota that perform abortions past 23 weeks and 5 days after the last menstrual period, according to their available guidelines. 

Just 1.1 percent of reported abortions in Minnesota between 2008 and 2021 took place after an estimated 20 weeks gestation, according to data from the state health department. Abortions performed after 24 weeks were even rarer, with just 31 taking place during that period. 

According to guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these minority of cases often occur “as a result of complications in the life or pregnancy of a pregnant person.”

“When abortions occur later in the pregnancy, they sometimes involve balancing medical concerns,” it said. “[W]e don’t believe that elected politicians, who lack our members’ education, training, experience, expertise and responsibility to patients, can or should be in the exam room weighing those factors or in a position of substituted judgment for our members and their patients.”

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates gather at the Capitol

Abortion opponents and their children sing hymns in a prayer circle at the Minnesota State Capitol building during the Minnesota Senate debate on the PRO Act on Jan. 27.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

Would the state still get data about abortions in Minnesota?

If Senate File 70, becomes law, the state would no longer require abortion providers to obtain and share information about patients who seek abortions, like their age, number of previous abortions or reason for terminating a pregnancy. That information is now compiled and made public by the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Earlier this month, MinnPost reported that the department also requires additional reporting about the demographics of those seeking abortions in Minnesota that goes above and beyond state law.

Supporters argue that the information makes private details about patients’ medical history public, and that could be used to identify them in certain circumstances. For example, if a person has a large family and lives in a small community.

They also point to Gilligan’s ruling, which struck down the penalty for not tracking and reporting the data as a further reason why the state should do away with the reporting standards altogether.

“The report itself is just a tool for data surveillance, and is meant to create a barrier for people accessing care and people providing care, because you have to maintain a separate system, to pay for that system to report to the state,” Maye Quade said. 

Republican lawmakers and groups that oppose abortion say the state should maintain the recording standards to understand the demographics around who seeks abortion services in Minnesota.

“If we’re not collecting that data, we’re not making informed decisions,” Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, said. “And again, that data is not attached to individual persons. We certainly don’t know who these people are, what their circumstances are, necessarily. But we need that data to make informed decisions.”

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Crookston Rep. Deb Kiel recovering from stroke

Crookston Rep. Deb Kiel recovering from stroke

State Rep. Deb Kiel announced Monday that she had a stroke on Friday and was hospitalized overnight in St. Paul.

A profile image

Rep. Debra Kiel (R) of District 1B.

Minnesota House of Representatives

The Republican from Crookston said she experienced fatigue and dizziness while at the State Office Building, which led her to seek medical care. Kiel returned home and is now resting, she said. She was released from the hospital on Saturday.

“I will have additional tests over the coming days and hope to return to St. Paul next week,” Kiel said in a statement. “In the meantime, my office is open for business and here to help with any constituent needs.”

Kiel, 65, said she hopes to return to the Capitol next week and plans to undergo medical tests in the meantime.

What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.

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NYPD among local, state and federal agencies gearing up for Trump indictment

NYPD among local, state and federal agencies gearing up for Trump indictment

Costa on Trump’s legal team strategy

Robert Costa reports Trump’s lawyers plan to be “combative” if Trump is charged


A law enforcement source said the New York Police Department along with federal, state and local agencies are gearing up for a possible indictment against former President Donald Trump in New York as early as next week.

The NYPD and other law enforcement agencies — including the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — are preparing security plans in and around the Manhattan criminal courthouse where Trump will potentially appear if he is charged in connection with a $130,000 alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, according to the source. Daniels alleges the money was paid to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg addressed the security issue in an email to employees Saturday, telling them that “your safety is our top priority.” The contents of the email, which were first reported by Politico, were confirmed to CBS News.

“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” Bragg wrote. “Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance charges stemming from his involvement with the payments and was sentenced to three years in prison.

The alleged scheme first came to light years ago, when Trump was still in office. The investigation gained new momentum in recent months, with the Manhattan district attorney’s office convening a grand jury to examine the matter.

A grand jury in New York has been hearing the case and could possibly vote to hand up an indictment against Trump. 

On Saturday, Trump, who denies the allegations, said in a social media post that he expects to be arrested Tuesday.

He added that “illegal leaks” from the Manhattan district attorney’s office indicate that “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.”

Trump also implored his supporters to protest, saying, “THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”

An indictment of a former president would be a first in American history as Trump seeks the GOP nomination for president in 2024.

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Walz signs universal school meals bill into Minnesota law

Walz signs universal school meals bill into Minnesota law

Surrounded by school children, teachers, advocates and public officials, Governor Tim Walz signed a bill into law Friday to provide breakfasts and lunches at no charge to students at participating schools. It makes Minnesota the fourth state in the country to do so. 

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. 

What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.

The legislation is similar to a program that was introduced during the pandemic to provide meals for all students, but was discontinued at the end of last year.

A man holds up a signed paper as children cheer

Students cheer as Gov. Tim Walz finishes signing the free school meals bill, on Friday, which will cost the state of Minnesota close to $400 million in the first two years and grow in price in the future.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

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.

Many — but not all — students in Minnesota qualify for free and reduced meals. That program is based on household income, and if families are below a certain threshold their students can receive school meals for free or for a reduced price. 

There’s also a law in Minnesota requiring schools to provide identical meals to all students, even if their families are experiencing financial difficulties. It’s supposed to prevent ‘lunch shaming’ practices where children are denied food or given substitutes that indicate their family is struggling financially.

But even with these measures, there are still families who do not qualify for free and reduced meals but who struggle to pay for food. In many districts this year, that has meant mounting school lunch debts in the tens of thousands of dollars because there are families who don’t qualify for free lunch programs but aren’t able to pay.

This bill would cover all school lunches and breakfasts, even if families don’t meet current federal USDA household income guidelines.

A woman at a podium holds up a picture

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan holds up a photo of herself and her mother before a bill signing on Friday. She spoke about experiencing food insecurity as a child and dedicated the passing of the free school lunch bill to her mother.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

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.”

For students in Mankato, Stueber says this will make a big difference in a more relaxed, communal cafeteria. Kids won’t need to worry they’re racking up debts when they eat lunch, she says. And Stueber pointed out that kids aren’t really able to learn well when they’re hungry. 

This bill only addresses school meals. But some who work to feed hungry people say this will be a big help.  

A man smiles and high fives school children as he walks

Gov. Tim Walz smiles as Webster Elementary students greet his arrival before signing the bill Friday. “I’m honored and I do think this is one piece of that puzzle in reducing both childhood poverty and hunger insecurity,” he said.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

Mary Weikum is the director of Food and Nutrition Services for Austin Public Schools.  She also works with other food programs for her city and county. 

“If we take care of the children through this bill, that maybe hopefully would be dollars that could hopefully go to another project that could address hunger,” she said.

Students will start receiving school meals at no charge starting at the beginning of the next academic year which starts in September for most schools.

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