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MN Ramps Up Support for Food Shelves Short on Culturally Relevant Supplies


Thursday, November 17, 2022   

Amid a wave of higher demand at food shelves, some locations in greater Minnesota are also trying to meet the needs of increasingly diverse populations.

State grants are being awarded to mix in some culturally preferred items. An emerging component of the Minnesota Food Shelf Program involves grants of up to $5,000 sent to applicants outside the Twin Cities metro area.

Tikki Brown, assistant commissioner of children and family services for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said certain items for BIPOC populations can be hard to come by in some regions, making them more expensive for food shelves to obtain. But if they have the aid to secure the right ingredients, it can reduce some of the survival stress for their customers.

"We know that different populations tend to make more food from scratch, for instance, and so we just want to ensure that we're able to support those needs," Brown explained. "When people are able to see familiar foods, that absolutely helps them both stretch their food dollars a little further, but also provides some comfort."

The state works with the group Hunger Solutions to distribute funds from the food shelf program. There were nearly 300 grants awarded this fall, and another 22 were directed to locations to build their culturally focused offerings.

Oyewole Dosumu, executive director of Lifegate Services, which operates a food shelf in Rochester, said their grant will be helpful in stocking up on traditional items sought by BIPOC customers, including refugees from Africa.

"Some of them are students, some of them have their own business," Dosumu observed. "When it comes to their food need, there's no sense of inclusiveness."

He added when browsing their location for certain foods, they can also make connections with people from their homeland, which is another way to address any isolation they might be feeling.

State leaders say as more job opportunities and other economic factors, such as housing costs, convince racial and ethnic groups to live in rural areas, Minnesota has to be ready with more culturally relevant services.

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.

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