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Older Minnesotans Increasingly Need Help from Food Shelves

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A new report says last year, Minnesotan seniors accounted for more than half a million food shelf visits. (Adobe Stock)
A new report says last year, Minnesotan seniors accounted for more than half a million food shelf visits. (Adobe Stock)
February 8, 2021

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. -- Food shelves across Minnesota are seeing much more demand from older residents, according to newly released hunger data for the region.

But advocates say food insecurity in this age group was already trending higher before the pandemic.

The group Hunger Solutions Minnesota said there were more than 3.8 million visits to food shelves around the state in 2020. That's a more than 6% increase over 2019.

Officials acknowledged the pandemic presented challenges to many individuals.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director for Hunger Solutions, said that was especially the case for seniors.

"During COVID, if you had a compromising medical condition, or you had transportation issues, that a food shelf was a very good avenue of response for healthy and nutritious food," Moriarty explained.

The report showed there was a 31% increase in food shelf visits by seniors.

But Moriarty noted in the wake of the Great Recession, there was continued demand among seniors, and she anticipated that will continue.

Advocates say because Minnesota has a robust response system, it was able to adapt and meet a lot of hunger needs during the pandemic, including meals for children.

The findings showed rural parts of Minnesota saw some of the biggest spikes in food shelf visits among older residents.

Elizabeth Koehl, outreach director for Prairie Five Community Action in the west-central region, said when COVID shut down meal sites, they began calling seniors and offering frozen meals and boxes of food supplies.

"And we were really able to identify the senior hunger in our communities, and really try to tackle some of those barriers that do exist," Koehl commented.

With the help of state and federal resources, Prairie Five purchased trucks to deliver these meals during the crisis. The group hoped that kind of outreach might take away some of the stigma, while adding seniors are sometimes reluctant to accept donations.

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