Relief Grants in MN Help Instill Hope in Addressing Food Insecurity
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Minnesota saw a record 5.7 million people people visit food shelves last year.
While there is still great concern about households not having enough to eat, new community-level solutions are taking shape, thanks to pandemic aid. Minnesota received nearly $14 million in American Rescue Plan funding to assist hunger relief efforts. All the grants have been sent out, going to food shelves, meal programs, SNAP outreach and tribal nations.
The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa used its grant to accelerate its bison ranch.
Jared Swader, tribal programs administrator for the Band, said being a food desert, they stocked up on products to hand out right away, but they also saw long-term opportunity.
"We've had a bison project in the works for about 10 to 15 years but there was no bison on land. It's just all kind of in the planning phases," Swader explained. "With this funding we were able to buy some of the last minute things; get some hay on board and get some equipment and things like that."
Most importantly, they now have bison for the ranch, and Swader noted they plan to secure additional resources for reproduction. He emphasized it would establish food sources for years to come, without having to worry as much about costs and other barriers in buying food in bulk.
Hunger Solutions, which helped distribute some of the grants, said 79% of funds were used for direct food purchases.
Tikki Brown, assistant commissioner of children and family services for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the funds helped with the overwhelming demand in the short term. She pointed out they also helped foster creativity among partner organizations to make sure clients are helped in ways that could produce better outcomes. It all starts with a reliable source of nutrition.
"If folks go too long without resources, it starts to really wear on more aspects of their life," Brown observed. "If we can get folks food quickly, it gives them hope."
Brown added the interaction among agencies and nonprofits also brought more attention to some of the hunger gaps around the state, and how close a lot of households are to food insecurity. Meanwhile, the grants also allowed hunger-relief organizations to enhance their delivery systems, add more storage space and cover operating costs.
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