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President Trump's reported to be ready to sign disaster relief bill without money for border security. Also on the Friday rundown: House bills would give millions a path to citizenship; and remembering California’s second-deadliest disaster.

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Residents of Minnesota's Cook, Get Back to "Cooking"

The northern Minnesota town of Cook has avoided becoming a food desert, defined as a part of the country without fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods. (americannutritionassociation.org)
The northern Minnesota town of Cook has avoided becoming a food desert, defined as a part of the country without fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods. (americannutritionassociation.org)
May 14, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sometimes a walk-in freezer is all it takes to prevent a so-called food desert. But renewed funding for a Minnesota program that creates those success stories is in jeopardy.

The Country Store in Cook was the recipient of a grant from the Good Food Access program this year to buy cold-storage appliances. That equipment will ensure the town's 500 residents can shop for groceries after the community's only full-service grocery burned down. Country Store owner Tom Musech said expansion of the Country Store has helped Cook maintain its vitality during a difficult time.

"If I don't get that walk-in cooler, I might not order all the milk. Run out, that's not a good thing for them or me, so this is a success story,” Musech said. “It's helped out Cook, and without that help, I wouldn't be able to do at least half of what I did."

In 2019, the state Department of Agriculture received 34 applications for the Food Access Program totaling $1 million, while only $150,000 was available. That meant only 10 applications could be funded.

A 2016 independent study ranked Minnesota among the nation's "Top 10" worst states in terms of access to healthy food - particularity in the state's rural communities.

Leah Gardner, policy director with Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said the organization would like to see legislators fund the program at levels sufficient to meet the demand.

"We know that the program is really a win-win for all,” Gardner said. “The health and well-being of community members of course is greatly impacted by having more healthy, fresh foods available. It also benefits local economies by keeping those main-street businesses around."

At the Country Store, Musech said the Good Food Access grant has allowed him to add hundreds of food products to the shelves so residents don't have to drive 20 miles to the next grocery store.

"And if they needed, like, a head of lettuce for something that they're cooking, they can come to my store and get it,” he said. “So, people say, they come in the store and say, 'I can't believe I found what I was looking for.' "

It's estimated 1.6 million Minnesotans have low retail access based on their distance from a full-service grocery store.

Disclosure: Hunger Solutions Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN