ST PAUL, Minn. — It has been a tough last few months for families that experience food insecurity and the struggles that go along with it.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered widespread job reductions and layoffs, and distance learning kept children away from their schools and needed breakfast and lunch programs.
Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation's largest food banks, says new data gathered in recent weeks suggests the problem is only going to get worse. The research, collected by McKinsey and Co., projects a hunger crisis in Minnesota "unlike anything seen since the Great Depression," according to a release from Second Harvest.
The data indicates that an additional 275,000 Minnesotans will face food insecurity beginning in July or late summer, when supplemental unemployment runs out for those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19. That number includes a projected 112,000 children. The research says it translates into a 65% increase in demand for food banks and food shelves, and will require that Second Harvest Heartland deliver an additional 25 million meals to those in need between July and December than they did last year.
Pre-pandemic, Second Harvest Heartland says one in 11 Minnesotans were affected by hunger. By August, it’s expected that more than one in eight people will be struggling to put meals on the table. It's estimated that the increased hunger level will cost the wider emergency food network $21 million, including $17 million for Second Harvest Heartland alone.
"If we don’t get ahead of this jump in hunger, it will deepen and broaden the impact of the pandemic. We must act now,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.
O'Toole added that she and others at Second Harvest are "problem-solving with our partners every minute of every day to meet this increasing demand of food, but we will need help.”
Here are some of the ways you can help feed hungry Minnesotans.
- Make a donation today. Help fund free emergency grocery pop ups, food boxes, and more. A monthly gift of $30 can provide 1,080 meals per year.
- Make it OK to ask for help. Talk about hunger and destigmatize the need for food assistance. Get help at 2harvest.org/gethelp.
- Business leaders can help. Ensure a thriving future economy by investing in and partnering with Second Harvest Heartland today.
- Join the Minnesota Central Kitchen network to donate meals to MealConnect or provide hot meals where they’re needed. Learn more.
Second Harvest Heartland will continue raising funds to cover the $17 million it will cost to feed the newly hungry over the next six months. The food bank will continue adapting the way it delivers food so it can be delivered safely and at the new, larger scale required. Second Harvest will also advocate for greater state investment in emergency food programs and in SNAP – or food stamps – the bedrock of the hunger-relief system.
Finally, Second Harvest Heartland is urging community members to ask for help if they need it, and to strip away the stigma and shame that’s associated with visiting a food shelf or applying for SNAP.
“There’s a lot we can’t control in these times,” said O’Toole. “But what we can control is how we show up for one another and handle this crisis as a community. We need everyone to show up like never before.”