By Foung Hawj
Minn. State Sen. (DFL-67)
ST. PAUL (Feb. 10, 2015) — Last week, Minnesotans came together with legislators and organizations to lobby against hunger. We know that a lack of food is a substantial problem communities like East St. Paul know all too well, which is why I’ve authored legislation that would establish a mobile food shelf grant program. Working with Hunger Solutions, we’ve developed a bill that would provide adequate fresh, local produce for disadvantaged populations to keep the hungry fed and achieve better health outcomes.
The mobile food shelf legislation seeks a $1 million annual appropriation from the general fund to provide a $5 match on SNAP benefits used at farmers markets throughout the state, encouraging SNAP recipients to use their benefits on healthier choices grown locally. Mobile food shelf programs increase access to free and nutritious food for individuals who usually do not have otherwise access. In communities like St. Paul’s East Side, which are often known as “food deserts,” access to healthy food is quite a challenge. This is why I’m working with my fellow senators on this very important legislation – to ensure that Minnesotans residing in disenfranchised communities can live better.
There are currently only 9 mobile food shelf providers distributing more than 800,000 lbs. of food to over 40,000 people across the state. While this number may seem adequate, we can and should do better. We should have the ability to offer mobile food shelf services to senior housing residents similar to the Merrick Center’s model of partnering with a host site and bringing food to families and individuals in need. And we can and should extend the offer beyond just our seniors; we should assist public housing and subsidized housing residents as well.
When we eliminate challenges in communities – like proximity or lack of transportation – a mobile food shelf literally becomes a vital provider of nutrition. I am hopeful that my colleagues will support this important mobile food shelf legislation so we may better serve Minnesotans in all communities.
Minn. State Sen. Foung Hawj