ST. PAUL, Minn. — The holiday break can be a hungry time for some Minnesota families that rely on free school lunch to keep their children fed.
That's true for many families at St. Paul's Maxfield elementary school. A program that started at Maxfield two years ago is now helping fight hunger at dozens of elementary schools around the country. "Meals for Minds" aims to improve academic performance by making sure that students get enough to eat when school is out.
One night each month at Maxfield, the gymnasium is transformed into a mobile food pantry. Schoolkids help their parents pick out free food.
Earlier this week, Kalema Flowers was already thinking about what she'll feed her four kids over break.
"The holidays, it's a lot rougher. Because you have to make so much meat," Flowers said. "Because they're not in school, they have to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner."
Flowers relies on free school lunch for her kids. Her family receives food stamps but without the pantry, Flowers said there wouldn't always be enough.
"I don't know what I would do. I don't know what it would turn me into," Flowers said.
Nearly all of the 426 students at Maxfield elementary school qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty in schools. Fewer than 20 pay full price.
Principal Nancy Stachel knows food is a struggle for many of them.
"I always worry when we don't have school. You...Continue Reading
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Farmers markets in Minnesota saw a jump in food stamp purchases this year. The US Department of Agriculture reports food stamp recipients redeemed almost $150,000 from Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012 at the state's farmers markets.
That's more than double the amount of food stamps spent at markets over the same period the year before.
The USDA says 53 markets or farmers who sell directly to consumers at roadside stands now accept food stamps in Minnesota.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Should food stamp recipients be allowed to use their benefits to purchase soda and junk food?
Currently, it's legal to buy pop, chips, and cookies using food stamps, as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But increasingly, public health experts concerned about obesity are raising questions about that policy, pitting them against longtime allies in the hunger prevention community.
One of those experts is Mary Story, dean at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. Story is quick to say that hunger, or food insecurity as it is sometimes known, is a serious problem in this country.
"But at the same time, obesity has also become a major epidemic and it was not at all in the mid-1960s when food stamps came about," Story said.
Two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity disproportionately affects low-income children.
"When you have obesity and food insecurity co-existing at the same time, I think it's really time to modernize the program and really look at what could be done to really have healthier foods," Story said.
When it comes to food stamp restrictions, Story suggests starting with sugar-sweetened beverages. She wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow cities or states to test the concept. But the USDA turned down New York's request last...Continue Reading
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Food shelves in northern Minnesota will benefit from an event Tuesday evening hosted by Minnesota's incoming Senate Majority Leader, Tom Bakk.
The annual fundraiser raised more than $100,000 for Arrowhead food shelves, which saw about 75,000 visits in the first eight months of the year. The fundraiser began six years ago when Iron Range food shelves ran low.
More jobs will help the problem of hunger in the state, Bakk said. Hunger is growing in Minnesota, he said, but jobs will do more to help people currently relying on food shelves and government assistance.
"Nothing's more important than people having a job. A job replaces a lot of other government programs that people are dependent on," Bakk said. "I'm going to work very hard over the next four years as Majority Leader of the Senate to make job creation, economic expansion, the priority."
Bakk, a DFL senator from Cook, said need is still high. Food shelf use remains at record levels in Minnesota and on the Iron Range.
"We've got a very elderly population. We've got a lot of our communities that are about 50 percent retirees," Bakk said. "What's really unique to the Range is because of the number of bankruptcies that the steel industry went through, many people had their pensions drastically reduced. Some of them lost them completely. They lost the health care. Many of those retirees are really struggling."
Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings' linebacker Chad Greenway also attended the eventContinue Reading
ST. PAUL, Minn. — More than 2,000 Minnesotans are expected to start their Thanksgiving morning by raising awareness and money to help fight hunger in the state.
The Walk to End Hunger at the Mall of America has raised nearly $900,000 since it started in 2008. The money supports the work of 12 hunger relief groups in the Twin Cities metro area.
There's still great need across the metro area, said Lori Kratcher, executive director of the Emergency Foodshelf Network, a Twin Cities food bank.
"We still see a lot of situational poverty, where people who never thought they'd have to go to a food shelf are visiting a food shelf to supply food for their family right now," Kratcher said. "We're still seeing that need. It's not decreasing. We're still seeing increases in monthly visits at food shelves all around the Twin Cities area."
Organizers hope the walk will raise $325,000 this year.Continue Reading