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Hunger-relief organizations call on lawmakers to hold special session

Organizations like Second Harvest Heartland say a bonding bill would help food shelters and banks meet rising demands.

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. — With grocery prices rising and gas reaching record highs, more families are turning to neighborhood food shelves for help. 

Yet the food shelves need help, too.

Volunteer Echo Rivera with the Southern Anoka Community Assistance Food Shelf & Thrift Store says she's seeing a lot more first-time guests, which means food and other items are running out more quickly.

"We used to have our soups that went all the way to this section here," Rivera said with outstretched arms. "This building can't really accommodate the amount of people that we have coming through here."

Even so, guests like Shelley Bergman prefer it to the grocery store, where food prices are up nearly 6% since 2020, according to Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

"It's helpful," Bergman said. "I pay rent and bills and so it gets tight at the end of the month." 

SACA co-executive director Dave Rudolph says over the last five years, the number of people they serve has doubled.

"We know our community will do everything they can to help us build a new facility but we're really depending on legislative support," Rudolph said during a press conference Wednesday.

Rudolph and fellow leaders from other hunger-relief organizations are now calling on Minnesota lawmakers to hold a special session and pass a bonding bill. A spokesperson from Second Harvest Heartland explained that the funding was initially part of the Governor's proposed supplemental budget released back in January. The full funding amounts requested by the governor were also included in the House Health and Human Services omnibus bill.

Hunger Solutions Minnesota reports that $8 million in funding would help meet the increasing needs at food shelves, food banks, and meal programs statewide and $15 million in grant funds would allow them improve and expand their facilities. 

"With more funding, we would absolutely be able to have a lot more bigger freezers and a lot more items to choose from," Rivera said.

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