Updated: November 23, 2020 11:20 AM
Created: November 23, 2020 11:14 AM
Minnesotans who have recently lost their jobs and watched their incomes dwindle have less to spend on necessities, including food. As the struggle to put healthy food on the table has increased, there is more help available from state and local sources, the Department of Human Services says.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the state and its community partners have issued food benefits to more than 400,000 Minnesotans per month, including children who missed out on school meals. In most cases, the aid has been funded through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the federal Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Our responsibility is to help hungry Minnesotans,” DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said. “Right now, the need is astronomical and we only expect it to increase as the pandemic continues. With the support of both state and federal funding, we are helping ease Minnesotans’ burdens during a difficult time.”
According to a release, SNAP ensures that people have resources to buy food, and that grocery stores and farmers markets have customers, even as the economy takes a hit during the pandemic. Food shelves and food banks help fill in the gaps.
Many Minnesotans, for the first time, find themselves applying for benefits. The DHS' SNAP outreach providers can assist with SNAP applications by providing one-on-one assistance as well as helping individuals understand their benefits with SNAP. For a list of SNAP outreach providers to contact for assistance, click here.
Families and individuals in need of additional food support can find links to resources on the department's website or by calling the Food Helpline at 1-888-711-1151. Families with immediate needs replacing their child's school meals should contact their child's school to learn about available options.
Since the pandemic began, DHS says many hungry Minnesotans, including families of 267,000 children who would have received free or reduced-price lunches but did not due to school closures, have taken advantage of extra SNAP benefits.
“Hunger is – and always has been – a health issue,” Harpstead said. “When people cannot get enough nutritious food, their health suffers. Low or no wages, difficulty traveling to get food, high housing costs and isolation for many seniors and people with disabilities puts an added strain on families’ food budgets and exacerbates health concerns. All of those problems are now amplified with COVID-19.”
In November, the department issued $12 million in CARES Act funding through the Minnesota COVID Food Fund Grant to 240 tribal governments, nonprofit agencies or local units of government that provide food and other items for food shelves throughout the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently approved November Emergency SNAP benefits, which the department is issuing in December.
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