The governor was firm: Nebraska would reject the new federal money for summer meals. The state already fed a small number of children when schools closed. He would not sign on to a program to provide all families that received free or cut-rate school meals with cards to buy groceries during the summer.

“I don’t believe in welfare,” the governor, Jim Pillen, a Republican, said in December.

A group of low-income youths, in a face-to-face meeting, urged him to reconsider. One told him she…

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