Study Results Show Hunger is Costing Minnesotans Upwards of $1.62 Billion Annually in Health and Education Costs

Hunger-relief community responds by forming Hunger-Free Minnesota; Minnesota Public Radio lends unprecedented support
Mon, 09/27/2010

SAINT PAUL, Minn.—(September 27, 2010)—A University of Minnesota Food Industry Center study funded by Target and released today reveals that hunger is costing Minnesotans upwards of $1.62 billion annually in direct and indirect health and education costs. The Cost/Benefit Study also suggests that interventions aimed at preventing hunger are sound moral, social and financial investments. The study is the fourth in a series of groundbreaking hunger-related reports that characterize hunger in Minnesota and that are compelling a coalition of organizations in Minnesota to create Hunger-Free Minnesota.

“The Cost/Benefit Study offers a unique look at the depth and breadth of hunger in Minnesota, including its reach, its implications and its costs,” said Jean Kinsey, director emeritus with the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center and one of the study’s authors. “It clearly shows that the effects of hunger impact every single one of us—regardless of our position in society, our job status or whether or not we have a roof over our heads—and that investing in ending hunger is not only a commitment to humanity but a solid investment in the community.”

According to the study, those who are hungry experience significantly poorer health and education outcomes than do well nourished individuals. Hungry children, for example, are more likely to experience headaches, stomachaches, ear infections, and colds, and are more likely to repeat a grade. Hungry teens are more likely to suffer from depression and commit suicide. And hungry adults are more likely to be obese and experience diabetes.

These mental and physical health problems come with a hefty price tag for Minnesotans, who pay $925 million in annual direct medical expenditures such as hospitalizations and medications and another $333 million annually in indirect medical expenditures such as treating headaches and colds. Minnesotans pay another $59 million annually to treat child mental disorders, manage teen suicide, and care for underweight newborns, and $62 million more in special education programming. In addition, because of poor educational outcomes, hunger costs Minnesota an estimated $240 million in lost wages.

The study also looked at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the largest USDA food assistance program, and found that the more eligible Minnesotans participating in the program, the greater the financial reward to Minnesota. More specifically, the study found that for every $1 of SNAP benefits spent in the state, Minnesota sees $34 in combined economic activity and savings.

The Cost/Benefit Study is the fourth in a series of groundbreaking hunger-related studies to be released in Minnesota in the past 18 months. Other studies include the Missing Meals Study, which found an annual shortfall of 125-milllion meals for low-income Minnesotans; the Hunger in America/Minnesota Study, which found that hunger has doubled in Minnesota over the past five years; and the SNAP Access Study, which showed that Minnesota is leaving approximately $210 million on the table by not enrolling more eligible people.

This suite of studies provides current and compelling data on hunger’s hold on Minnesota families, schools, businesses and communities—data that is so compelling, in fact, that a coalition of organizations is initiating Hunger-Free Minnesota, a movement designed to change the way individuals, organizations and governments view and respond to hunger.

Still in its formative stage, Hunger-Free Minnesota is launching a web site and a novel awareness campaign around hunger and its social and financial effects. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is partnering with the collaboration to shine a light on the issue of hunger via events and radio and digital promotions. In addition, the news department will report on the issue across the state.

“As a statewide community-oriented media outlet, Minnesota Public Radio is pleased to partner with Hunger-Free Minnesota to help raise awareness around hunger,” said Tim Roesler, general manager and senior vice president with MPR. “We look forward to helping to make Hunger-Free Minnesota an engaging and successful effort that improves the lives of all Minnesotans.”

For its part, Target has contributed significantly to the underpinnings of Hunger-Free Minnesota. In addition to funding the Cost/Benefit Study, Target donated 600,000 pounds of non-perishable food items to coalition partner, Second Harvest Heartland following the release of the Missing Meals Study. Target’s donations are part of the company’s continuing involvement in hunger relief nationwide.

The founding coalition of organizations partnering on Hunger-Free Minnesota include the six Feeding America Food Banks serving Minnesota (North Country Food Bank in Crookston, Minn.; Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth, Minn.; Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in Grand Rapids, Minn.; Channel One Food Bank in Rochester, Minn.; Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul, Minn.; and Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, N.D.), as well as Hunger Solutions Minnesota and the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

To learn more about Hunger-Free Minnesota, the Cost/Benefit Study or the suite of studies behind Hunger-Free Minnesota, visit www.hungerfreemn.org.

About Target Corporation

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) serves guests at 1,743 stores in 49 states nationwide and at Target.com. Target is committed to providing a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to unique and highly differentiated products at affordable prices. Since 1946, the corporation has given 5 percent of its income through community grants and programs, like Take Charge of Education. Today, that giving equals more than $3 million a week. For more information about Target’s commitment to corporate responsibility, visit Target.com/hereforgood.

About Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Public Radio® (MPR) operates a 40-station radio network serving virtually all of Minnesota and parts of surrounding states. Reaching more than 900,000 listeners each week, Minnesota Public Radio produces programming for radio, Internet and face-to-face audiences, and is home to the largest and most experienced radio newsroom in the Upper Midwest. Programs produced by Minnesota Public Radio's parent company, American Public Media™, reach 16 million listeners on nearly 800 radio stations nationwide each week. A complete list of stations, programs and additional services can be found at www.minnesotapublicradio.org.

About Hunger-Free Minnesota

Hunger-Free Minnesota is a grass-roots movement to end hunger in our communities. It was formed by a growing coalition of hunger-relief organizations in Minnesota united in the common belief that food is a basic and essential human right that every Minnesotan should enjoy. The coalition includes the six Feeding America Food Banks serving Minnesota, including North Country Food Bank in Crookston, Minn.; Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth, Minn.; Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in Grand Rapids, Minn.; Channel One Food Bank in Rochester, Minn.; Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul, Minn.; and Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, N.D., as well as Hunger Solutions Minnesota and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. To learn more, visit www.hungerfreemn.org.

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