Hunger hotline reports record number of calls since July

It's one of several metrics showing increased hunger in Minnesota.
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A Minnesota nonprofit hunger helpline is reporting a record number of calls within the last two months.

Hunger Solutions, which connects callers to food shelves and aids with applications for benefit programs such as SNAP, says its Minnesota Food Helpline has received over 3,800 calls since the beginning of July. The organization is one of several local nonprofits urging Congress this week to boost the maximum SNAP benefit by 15% and increase the monthly minimum from $16 to $30.

This is just one of several data points issued by food advocacy organizations since the beginning of the pandemic. The state's largest food bank, Second Harvest Heartland, has been reporting a record number of calls since March. 

Toward the end of June, Second Harvest Heartland said its data analysis with McKinsey & Co. predicted a 65% increase in demand at food shelves by 2021, with an expected 275,000 Minnesotans to experience an inability to afford food beginning in July and peaking in September at 725,000 people — 130,000 more people than after the 2008 recession.

Before the pandemic began, one in 11 Minnesotans sought help for food, according to Second Harvest Heartland. In July, the organization estimated that number would increase to one in eight people by August. The state's unemployment rate has hit record levels since the pandemic began, peaking at 9.9% in May, the highest since the state began tracking it in the 1970s. It fell to 7.7% in August. 

“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, in a statement in June. "At Second Harvest Heartland are problem-solving with our partners every minute of every day to meet this increasing demand of food, but we will need help.”

To locate a food shelf or apply for SNAP, you can go to hungersolutions.org or call 1-888-711-1151.

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