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Putting Hunger at Top of MN Legislature’s To-Do List

As brick-and-mortar grocery stores disappear in many places across Minnesota, mobile food shelves help the one in 11 state households affected by hunger. (hungersolutions.org)
As brick-and-mortar grocery stores disappear in many places across Minnesota, mobile food shelves help the one in 11 state households affected by hunger. (hungersolutions.org)
March 14, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Advocates for reducing hunger in Minnesota will tell legislators Thursday that additional policies and funding are necessary to relieve food insecurity and hunger across the state.

It's Hunger Day on the Hill, held annually to acknowledge that not all Minnesotans have the same access to healthy and affordable foods.

Leah Gardner, policy director for Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says lawmakers could take a huge step by improving school breakfast programs so children start their day ready to learn.

"We know that hunger, unfortunately, is a really persistent problem here in Minnesota and across the country, but certainly we're not immune to that here in Minnesota,” she states. “We face big challenges, and unfortunately, (it) has turned into some pretty significant health disparities in Minnesota."

Hunger Solutions also is advocating to maintain and expand the mobile food shelf program that was implemented in 2015, but lacked funding in 2018.

Peter Woitock, a community organizer with Hunger Solutions, says food shelves make a significant contribution in small towns across the state where there are no longer gas stations selling food, let alone grocery stores. He notes that during a two-year period, state grants provided funding for 35 mobile food shelves.

"There was over 3 million pounds of food to over 190,000 individuals during that two-year program,” he states. “So we're going to back the state because, with an aging population and just people without the means of transportation, we're hearing from more partners and food shelves around the state that those needs are only going to continue to grow."

Woitock says a variety of Minnesotans often find themselves hungry, including college students, who represent a growing demographic of Americans suffering from hunger or food insecurity.

He adds that reasons for the problem vary and that's why mobile food shelves help.

"It could be health factors for some folks,” he points out. “Some, it's they don't have a car. And in some situations, it's trying to meet people where they're at. For example, we've seen an issue of hunger on college campuses, so those mobile food shelves are able to show up to different locations that way."

Advocates also will campaign to end school lunch shaming, which has in some districts included withholding access to graduation ceremonies and field trips to motivate parents to pay off student lunch debt.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN