Other’s opinion: Feeding the hungry a priority as the economy struggles

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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The Free Press (Mankato)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

As many of us make another shopping list to get groceries, maybe making sure to hit the minimum purchase for curbside pickup popular during the pandemic, others will wonder how they will continue to eat at all.

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The prediction from recent data is that many Minnesotans will see hunger by this fall in numbers and intensity not experienced since the Great Depression.

Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization, released a study done by consulting firm McKinsey and Co. that predicts an additional 275,000 Minnesotans will face food insecurity because of the hit the economy is taking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The price tag to food banks for that increased demand across the state is estimated at $21 million.

The extra federal unemployment benefit expires at the end of July, and Second Harvest is expecting a jump in food aid requests. Food shelves, already bustling before the pandemic, have noticed an increase in demand. That’s not going to fade anytime soon. Blue Earth and Nicollet counties are considered among the 25 most food insecure counties in Minnesota.

Complicating the situation is that some of the traditional community fundraisers and drives to benefit food shelves have been canceled because of the pandemic, including the in-person collection normally held during the popular St. Peter Old-Fashioned Fourth of July and North Mankato Fun Days parades.

So often it is the children that suffer the most when it comes to food shortages. Growing bodies and developing brains need nutritious meals to keep them on track. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Women, Infants and Children Special Supplemental Nutrition Program, or WIC, need additional support during this trying time as well as meal programs that feed children and the elderly year-round.

Food deserts also continue to be a problem, especially for those with limited transportation, such as many of the stranded international students in our community during the pandemic.

State and federal lawmakers need to do all that they can to make sure government benefits for the hungry are beefed up during this economic crisis. Their constituents need to make the rallying cry for the hungry loud and clear.

And, as always, those who have plenty should consider giving to those who don’t by donating to area food shelves and nonprofits that support the hungry. Most are set up to take online monetary donations, which actually stretches their food supply power because they can buy needed goods through a food bank.

The pandemic and all its repercussions will be with us a long time. The hungry can’t put off eating.