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The State of Minnesota is expanding its free school meals program so that an additional 90,000 students will get them.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday that more than 200,000 students on Medicaid will be automatically enrolled or re-enrolled to receive free school meals, as part of a USDA pilot program involving seven other states including Minnesota.

Typically parents have to apply for free school meals provided they have low enough income, or schools can "directly certify" a child for free school meals if they are recipients of other government assistance programs such as food stamps.

Of the 200,000 who qualify under the new Medicaid automatic enrollment, Walz's office says 90,000 are not currently signed up for free school meals, but now they will be.

“This is a huge win for Minnesota families and schools. As a former classroom teacher of 20 years, I know that accessibility of school meals is top of mind for thousands of families and students preparing for school in the fall,” said Walz, who is facing an election challenge this year from Republican Scott Jensen.

"This project means fewer children will go hungry at school next year, and we know that’s the number one way we can help students succeed.”

The expansion of the Medicaid provision has the potential to provide free school meals to even more children, even if they wouldn't ordinarily qualify.

As the Pioneer Press explains, if a school has at least 40 percent of its students directly certified – as is typically the case in low income communities – they can qualify for free meals to be provided for all students at said school under the Community Eligibility Provision.

If the ratio is 62.5%, the federal government covers the entire cost of the free meals.

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