Food Security is Key to Sustainable Living
One of the basic human needs is food. Food insecurity can completely obliterate the opportunity for sustainable, healthy living. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity means access to adequate food is inconsistent and limited by a lack of money and other resources throughout the year. Food insecure households report their diets to be of reduced quality, variety, or desirability and/or experience disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
March is FoodShare Month in Minnesota, giving all of us a focused opportunity to learn about programs that work to promote food security and how we might support those efforts.
But first, let’s look at a few numbers to understand the scope of the need.
Minnesota Food Share reports that Minnesota’s charitable food system (food shelves and food banks, meal programs, etc.) continues to run at capacity. This has been exacerbated by rising inflation and the end of various financial and food supports established during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a March 1, 2023 article in the Star Tribune, one end-date impacting Minnesota is the February 28 wrap-up of emergency SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, which is expected to cause a surge at food shelves. Food shelves, like other organizations and individuals, are also struggling with inflation. Most food at food shelves is purchased or requires payment for delivery, and those costs rise with inflation.
How to Fight Food Insecurity
Hunger among us is a problem many people don’t easily discuss. So here are some actions to take:
Spread information about local shelves for those who might use them. Whether it’s re-sharing a social media post or bringing flyers to a community meeting, you can help spread the word! See some of the local resources below.
Donate! Check with your local food shelf to find their guidelines for food or financial donations.
Volunteer! Every food shelf is run a bit differently, but all utilize volunteers, so again, check with your local organization.
Food insecurity disproportionately affects older Minnesotans from lower-income and rural communities, according to the Central Minnesota Council on Aging. Currently there is a legislative effort to fully fund senior meals in Minnesota. Learn more here.
Are you a grower/farmer? In the Pine River/Pequot Lakes area, a Sourcewell grant is supporting a Farm-to-Food-Shelf effort to provide freshly grown local produce to area food shelves. Click here to request more information.
Access to Food Resources by Area
In the Northern Lakes area, the food shelf is located at the Pine River-Backus Family Center in downtown Pine River, MN. The Food Shelf is open Tuesdays (10-1 except the 2nd Tuesday of the month when the hours are 3-6) and Fridays from 10-1. Contact the Family Center for more details as well as details about volunteering and donations at 218-587-4292.
Free Community meals are available weekly in Pine River and Backus. Dubbed “CommUnity Meals,” they are available each Monday at Riverview Church in Pine River and each Thursday at the Backus Pine Mountaineer Senior Center. Serving time is 4 pm until gone. LIke the Food Shelf, volunteers and donations make this effort a success. Contact the Family Center for how to help.
Each month Second Harvest North Central Food Bank’s Mobile Pop-Up Pantry has a schedule of dates and locations of free food distribution for those who meet eligibility requirements. This link has the schedule and eligibility guidelines.
In Winona, Winona Volunteers Services operates a food shelf. Click here to learn more about using their services or supporting them. Between now and April 9, every dollar donated or pounds of food given to the Winona Volunteer Services Food Shelf is eligible for prorated matching funds.
The Little Free Pantry is a volunteer-run organization that “activates neighbor engagement with food insecurity.” Think of it like a Little Free Library but with food and personal supplies instead of books. Little Free Pantry’s website lists the statistic that 29% of those experiencing food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs. Their website includes a map of all locations and there are currently locations in Onalaska and La Crosse.
If you are in a different geographic area, or just want to find more information about food resources, a great place to start is the Hunger Solutions website. And click here to find out about more initiatives from Minnesota Food Share.