by Lori Kratchmer
Executive Director, The Food Group.
One in ten Minnesotans, or more than 500,000 state residents, experience food insecurity on a regular basis. This means they don’t have consistent access to nutritious food. I don’t think anyone working in hunger relief could have predicted that the need for services would still be increasing at the close of 2014. According to Hunger Solutions, food shelves in Minnesota serve over 8500 people per day and 40% of those being served are children. These stats may seem counterintuitive because unemployment rates are dropping as more people are going back to work. Unfortunately, this does not tell the whole story as the majority of the jobs being created are low wage jobs making it difficult to make ends meet. In July of 2014 a select committee from the MN House of Representatives published a report indicating our economy suffers from high underemployment. A quote from the report, “Many Minnesotans are underemployed, working at jobs with fewer hours than they seek and below their skill levels. Perhaps most concerning, job growth will concentrate in low-wage occupations through 2020 and beyond.”
The unemployment and underemployment issues our state has been experiencing since the great recession have changed the face of hunger dramatically. It is not just an urban inner city issue as hunger exists in rural and suburban areas as well. The middle class was hit hard during the recession and many families who used to donate to their local food shelf found themselves needing to visit the food shelf to help feed their family. Hunger Solutions reports in the Twin Cities metro area, suburban and exurban counties (Dakota, Isanti and Carver) have seen the highest rise in food shelf use over the past five years.
The University of MN Food Industry Center conducted a study in 2010 to identify the direct and indirect health care and education costs and found hunger costs Minnesotans over $1.2 billion annually. Hunger leads to physical, psychological and cognitive effects that have consequences for both adults and children.
- Hungry adults are 2.5 times more likely to be obese and 2 times more likely to have diabetes, suffer from depression and anxiety.
- Hungry children tend to have lower math/reading scores and are 3 times more likely to be suspended from school.
- Hungry children 2 times more likely to repeat a grade and 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
The above stats signify there is a huge financial incentive to ensure all Minnesotans have access to quality and nutritious food. At The Food Group we also believe it is a basic human right to have access to quality and nutritious food. Our work is guided by these values:
- Everyone deserves the dignity of access to healthy meal.
- Everyone deserves access to healthy groceries where they live.
- Everyone deserves to send their child to school nourished and prepared to learn.
- Everyone deserves access to foods they are familiar with that their family will enjoy.
The Food Group provides nutritious food and support services to over 200 hunger relief partners, including food shelves, on-site meal programs, mobile food shelf sites, and Fare For All sites throughout the state. Food shelf and on-site meal program partners receive free donations from The Food Group and supplement what isn’t donated by purchasing basic staples at or below wholesale cost through our bulk purchasing program. Through partnership with subsidized housing buildings, our mobile food shelf program brings food directly to the homes of residents experiencing transportation barriers. The Fare For All program offers healthy food at affordable prices to help individuals stretch their budgets. Through our innovative group of partners and direct programs we work to provide good foods in the good fight against hunger.
Unfortunately, the issue of hunger is not going away anytime soon. We could not carry out our mission without tremendous support from the community. We hope this article inspires you to go out and support your local food shelf or food bank. You can volunteer your time, host a food and cash drive, start a community garden and donate the produce or make a financial contribution. Your support can make a difference in our belief that everyone deserves the dignity of access to a healthy meal.