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Minnesota Foodsheves Look South for Help

October 13, 2008

St. Paul, MN – While food shelves in Minnesota and the Midwest are having problems keeping their pantries stocked to meet a growing need, a lot of food is going to waste elsewhere in the nation.

Julie Schanzenbach Canhim, of the group Minnesota Foodshare, says tons of surplus fruit and vegetables in the Southwest are available for the asking - but produce is perishable, and transportation is expensive.

"The food often gets tossed into landfills instead of making it to hungry people in other parts of the United States. It's mostly a cost issue, for being able to distribute it by truck."

The solution, she says, is to find ways to transport the food to locations where it can be distributed.

"A goal from one of our local partners in the hunger fight is to bring up 30 truckloads, or one million pounds, of fresh, quality fruits and vegetables. Those numbers are not small, and they would certainly make a huge difference to hungry families."

There has been a double-digit increase in food shelf use over the past year, and Canhim says many locations can't meet the demand. Monetary donations, which help pay to transport surplus food, are really needed, she adds. Last year, Minnesota's 300 food shelves distributed more than 47 million pounds of food.

At the Greater Lake Country Food Bank in the Twin Cities, CEO Hy Rosen says the reason so much food isn't reaching those who need it can be summed up in one word - money.

"We have not been able to secure any free transportation - by the government, or someone to come through with the money, which is very reasonable. The cost would average about 12 cents a pound for number-one tomatoes, to get here to feed people."

Rosen says the new U.S. Farm Bill contains money for food-related transportation, but Congress has not yet authorized spending it. He hopes it becomes a priority if lawmakers go back into session after the election.

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN