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Governor Jim Pillen of Nebraska Reverses Position on Summer Feeding


Governor Jim Pillen of Nebraska has reversed his previous decision and will now accept federal funds to assist families in need to feed children during the summer school vacation.  His recent decision to accept $18 million in federal funds represents a reversal from his previous position.  Governor Pillen stated previously that he did not believe in “welfare” which is somewhat hypocritical since according to news reports he accepted federal funding during the COVID pandemic for his hog plant.


His acceptance of federal funding for supplemental feeding was in part attributed to a campaign in the Nebraska Legislature led by Senator Jen Day to override the decision by the Governor. In addition he was confronted by a petition signed by over 6,000 citizens of the state, protest vigils outside his residence and scathing criticism on social media.


Nebraska now becomes the 37th state in the Nation to accept funding that will benefit 150,000 children who qualify for reduced cost and free meals when school is in session.


Governor Pillen has apparently turned the situation to his advantage by announcing his flip-flop at a press conference joined by 21 state senators representing his party affiliation.


It is difficult to reconcile his statement that “children are the future of Nebraska” with a politically inspired refusal to accept Federal funds to alleviate hunger in a needy population. The question remains as to what motivated the original decision that appeared firm at the end of 2023?  A disinclination to accept that there were needy children in Nebraska?  A reluctance to accept funds from the Federal government perceived as politically inappropriate in a politically polarized environment?  A realization that recipients would be from families denying him political support and therefore inconsequential?


Irrespective of motivation, it is evident that Gov. Pillen has now made the correct decision having consulted with a range of advisors and visited with constituents. He may have been influenced by a recent poll showing state Senator Tony Vargas (D) runing neck-and-neck with incumbent Representative Don Bacon (R)  who was previously considered to be a winner for reelection the right-leaning 2nd Congressional District. Whatever the influences on Gov. Pillen his reversal on supplemental feeding  of children is correct and pragmatic. More power to him.


It is a primary responsibility of governors, mayors and other elected officials to use the powers of their office to benefit all of their citizenry and to pay special attention to the less fortunate. Children need adequate food to grow and learn. Stunting physical and mental development through deprivation will in the long term be more expensive to communities than providing adequate nutrition.