Languishing school meals bill prompts hunger strike

Kokayi Nosakhere says he’s been without food for nine days. The Anchorage man and self-described community activist is on a hunger strike.

“We have three options: they schedule the bill, the session ends, or I die,” said Nosakhere.

“Do the right thing. Stop playing.”

Nosakhere is trying to call attention to a bill that would provide a state match for a federally-funded school meals program. It’s expected to allow expansion of the Alaska program so at least 22,000 students have a school breakfast.

The sponsor of the legislation, Anchorage Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski, said that would include over 6,800 children from low income families which already qualify for free or reduced price meals.

Nosakhere said he was formerly a food stamp outreach coordinator at the Food Bank of Alaska. He pointed to two centuries of research and evidence which show that children succeed in the classroom when they are not malnourished.

Nosakhere said this is at least the second time in three years that the measure has become mired in the House Finance Committee.

“Alaska is one of twelve states that does not provide matching funds from the state towards the school nutrition program,” said Nosakhere.

At the request of his family, Nosakhere said he’s on a one-hundred calorie liquid diet to make sure he keeps up on basic nutrient intake.

Nosakhere said he doesn’t know why Senate Bill 3 is languishing in the House Finance Committee and he declines to speculate. But in an earlier blog entry he noted an opinion piece in the Seward Phoenix Log newspaper that tied the House Finance Committee’s inaction to a House version of an oil tax bill now in the Senate. Wielechowski opposes the measure because it provides billions in tax breaks to oil companies without accountability.

Nosakhere says he was essentially denied a meeting this week with Representative Anna Fairclough, a finance committee vice chair, after meeting with her staff.

Kokayi Nosakhere’s blog is here.