On Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 the Chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee Sandy Pappas, and Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Aric Putnam hosted a joint hearing and roundtable discussion at Keystone Community Services’ Merriam Park Community Center between state senators and hunger experts. The hearing provided senators the opportunity to hear directly from hunger-relief organizations serving communities across the state about investments needed for programs fighting food insecurity in Minnesota.
“Too many of our neighbors are struggling to get enough food to eat,” said Senator Aric Putnam, District 14, DFL. “Great Minnesotans are stepping up, including farmers and food shelves, and in the Agriculture Committee of the Minnesota Senate, we will do whatever we can to help them end food insecurity in our state.”
Senator Pappas also presented with leaders from many hunger relief organizations including Keystone Community Services, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, and Second Harvest Heartland to share updates on the elevated need for food assistance and suggestions for how the legislature can act to end hunger in Minnesota.
“As chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, I am focused on investing in our state over the long-term,” said Senator Sandy Pappas, District 65, DFL. “We know our state is facing a crisis of food insecurity. We have a great opportunity to use our historic state budget surplus to invest in infrastructure and food programs that will reduce hunger in Minnesota. I’m grateful to Keystone Community Services for hosting this event.”
Leah Gardner, Policy Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, shared that in 2022, Minnesota recorded more than 5.2 million food shelf visits, which is nearly 1.7 million more than in 2021. Grocery prices, gas, and rents reached historically high levels throughout last year while pandemic-era financial and nutrition supports have ended, leaving thousands of Minnesotans with few options to help keep food on their table. One in 6 people (more than 800,000) living in Second Harvest Heartland’s service area reached out for food assistance in 2021. With a historic $17.6 billion surplus, it has never been more important for our legislature to support the programs and policies that keep our neighbors fed.
“Second Harvest Heartland works with hunger-relief organizations across Minnesota to support those facing food insecurity, and we’re proud of how our network has responded to the pandemic and increased need over these last few years,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland. “Despite the tireless work of Minnesota’s emergency food system, we’re staring down the hungriest winter in memory with inflation eating away at family budgets and Covid-era supports lapsing. Food banks are facing the same sky-high prices consumers are, and while we’ll continue to work hard to source and afford the foods families know and love, it is vital that this year’s state budget supports Minnesota’s emergency food system to help us end hunger in Minnesota.”
Mary McKeown, President and CEO of Keystone Community Services urged those concerned with food insecurity rates in Minnesota to step up and be part of the solution. “As demand for food and other support continues to increase, Keystone and many other hunger relief partners need more space to respond to community needs,” McKeown said. “Infrastructure support for Keystone’s new food center and other food shelf capital projects ensures that we have the space needed to provide support for the record number of people in our communities reaching out to us.”
Organizations that took part in the hearing and roundtable discussion included 360 Communities, Community Pathways of Steele County, Department of Indian Work/Interfaith Action, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Loaves and Fishes, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Keystone Community Services, Metro Meals on Wheels, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Neighborhood House, Southern Anoka County Assistance (SACA) Food Shelf, Open Arms of Minnesota, PRISM, Ramsey County, Second Harvest Heartland, The Food Group, and Yes Network.
Minnesota’s hunger-relief network encourages people to join the fight against hunger by volunteering time or resources to their local food shelf or meal program, or contacting their state lawmakers in support of the programs and policies that help our neighbors in need.