Mar 2, 2021 - News
Minnesota's hunger problem grows
Photo: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Minnesota's hunger crisis has gotten worse amid the pandemic — and the need for aid isn't expected to lift anytime soon.

Why it matters: An estimated one in nine Minnesotans don't have enough to eat, up from 1 in 11 this time last year, according to Second Harvest Heartland.

  • The hunger-relief organization expects demand to remain 25 to 30% above average through the spring.

What they're saying: "COVID has undone more than a decade’s worth of progress in reducing Minnesota’s food insecurity rate, with more people than ever facing hunger today," CEO Allison O’Toole told us.

By the numbers: Minnesotans made a record 3.8 million visits to food shelves in 2020, according to the statewide advocacy organization Hunger Solutions.

Between the lines: Like many effects of the pandemic, the hunger crisis hasn't been evenly distributed.

  • Food insecurity rates are higher among children and seniors. Black, Hispanic, Asian and Indigenous families experience hunger at rates twice white families do, per Second Harvest.

What's happening: Second Harvest worked with partners, including consulting firm McKinsey & Company, to update supply models to better anticipate the unprecedented demand.

  • They also experimented with mobile distribution sites to get food to those newly in need.
  • "We really were meeting the needs of people we weren’t seeing at our food shelf partners before," director of supply and demand planning Julie Vanhove told us.

Yes, but: The same supply chain issues that led to empty shelves in grocery stores have made efforts to secure needed food inventory more complicated and costly.

What's next: A number of proposals targeting food insecurity have been introduced at the state Capitol, including measures to raise the income cap for SNAP benefits, address "shaming" of students over school lunch debt and send $7 million in additional funding to food shelves.

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan who received food assistance as a child, told advocates attending a virtual Hunger Day on the Hill 2021 yesterday that the issue is a top priority for the administration.

The bottom line: Despite good signs for the pandemic and economic recovery, the need for additional support, including donations and volunteers, isn't going away.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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