Minnesota food shelf visits reach record high

Published 7:09 am Thursday, May 10, 2018

By Shannon Prather

Star Tribune

Minnesotans visited food shelves a record 3.4 million times in 2017, more often than even during the Great Recession, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services analyzed by the nonprofit Hunger Solutions.

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That’s an 11 percent jump in adult usage since 2012. Visits by seniors saw the steepest increases, jumping nearly 40 percent in that period.

The record-breaking year shows that even as unemployment reaches historic lows, the stock market booms and property values soar, many have been left behind.

“This marks the seventh consecutive year with more than 3 million visits to our food shelves,” said Hunger Solutions Executive Director Colleen Moriarity. “In other words, since the recession, it’s become the ‘new normal’ in Minnesota.”

Minnesota recorded 1.97 million food shelf visits in 2007. Then the 2008 recession hit and the number of food shelf visits rose as the ranks of the unemployed climbed.

Many people have returned to work in the last decade, but food shelf usage continues to increase.

“Minnesota’s unemployment and poverty rates are among the lowest in the country and our per capita income and homeownership are among the highest. Yet thousands of Minnesotan families are still struggling to put food on their tables,” Moriarity said. “I am surprised by it. I thought we would see a decrease.”

But rising rents are straining family budgets, she said. The senior population is on the rise and working people struggling to return to pre-Recession wages could all contribute to higher demand, she said.

Children represented 36.4 percent of food shelf usage in Minnesota for a total of 1.2 million visits.

The state contracts with Hunger Solutions to collect food shelf usage data. Moriarity said they began the work in 2002.

There are about 400 food shelves in the state.