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Support for State Food Shelves on the Front Burner

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April 9, 2007

Legislation designed to meet the growing use of food shelves in Minnesota is heading for a vote at the state legislature. Its author is Rep. John Benson.

"I discovered shortly after coming to the legislature, that they had not been providing any support for food shelves, in spite of the fact that the increase in the use of food shelves has gone up nearly 90 percent in the last four or five years."

Benson's proposal, part of a larger spending bill, increases state support for Minnesota’s over 300 food shelves by 45 percent. He notes that the shelves are a critical resource for thousands of working Minnesota families, ensuring good nutrition for children, seniors and other vulnerable people. There are several reasons why food shelf use is increasing.

"A very large percentage of the population really hasn’t seen an increase of buying power now for twenty years or more. And, I suspect that, it’s finally hitting a point where it’s really starting to cut into people’s disposable income. Things like increased cost of housing, which has really gone up dramatically. And, transportation costs and all the rest."

Benson points out that food shelf funding hasn’t increased since 1995. And, he says the investment would make the state eligible for matching federal funds.

Jill Hiebert with Hunger Solutions Minnesota says support for state food shelves makes sense because hunger in Minnesota affects everyone.

"People who are hungry are living all around us. We may not even be aware of it, especially when it comes to families and children who are coming to school who are hungry. And maybe they are not eating before they get there, and then they’re just not learning. Sometimes there may be some behavioral problems or social problems. It’s just better for everyone if we’re all well-nourished."

She adds that making sure everyone has enough to eat also reduces future health and financial problems, and over half the people who rely on the state’s over 300 food shelves are working adults with kids.

The bill is HF-1233.

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN