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Expanding Rural Minnesota Food Access Through Mobile, Farmers Markets

The Minnesota Farmers Union is supporting plans to provide low-cost loans and grants to bring more farmers and mobile food markets to greater Minnesota. (iStockphoto)
The Minnesota Farmers Union is supporting plans to provide low-cost loans and grants to bring more farmers and mobile food markets to greater Minnesota. (iStockphoto)
April 11, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Thousands of rural Minnesotans are having a tougher time accessing healthy foods than 10 years ago, and the state's Farmers Union is backing a plan to help.

A recent survey of greater Minnesota grocery store owners by the University of Minnesota Extension finds that most counties have lost stores in recent years.

Adding to the problem is that thousands of state residents have to drive 10 miles or more to buy fresh fruits or vegetables.

Union president Doug Peterson says the proposed Good Foods Access Program would set aside state dollars to expand the number of farmers markets and mobile food markets in rural areas.

"We're doing that with books and computers,” he states. “We're putting them on mobile trucks and moving them around in rural communities. It only makes sense if we move not only the intellectual part of it, but we also move the nutritional part of it to people for access."

The Midwest Food Processors Association says one problem with the bill is that it emphasizes "fresh" produce while ignoring "the affordability, convenience and nutritional benefits" of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Beyond trying to provide healthier foods to underserved areas of the state, Peterson argues the program could also have economic benefits for farmers and other Minnesota food producers.

"If you give them the opportunity, the tools and the on-ramps to making money on the farm, they're going to be on that farm, so that there will be local foods and there will be farm fresh and there will be food access for the whole population, not just for a few people in the suburban areas," he points out.

Currently, bills to create the Good Foods Access Program have bipartisan support in both the state House and Senate .

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN