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New data predicting Depression-era level of food need in Minnesota

The state's largest food bank says McKinsey & Co. projects need for food to peak in September.
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With record unemployment, the hunger crisis is expected to worsen in Minnesota, new data projects. 

Second Harvest Heartland, the state's largest food bank, is gearing up to handle what it says could be a $17 million effort to provide food for an increasing number of Minnesotans.

Statewide projections from McKinsey & Co. suggests demand at food shelves could increase by 65 percent by 2021, with an expected 275,000 Minnesotans to experience 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. That number is expected to increase to one in eight people by August, after the additional $600 in unemployment aid per week from the federal CARES Act ends July 31. The state's unemployment rate reached 9.9 percent last month, the highest since the state began tracking it in the 1970s. 

“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. "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.”

Second Harvest Heartland says it predicts the hunger level could cost the emergency food network $21 million total. The organization says based on current projections, it would distribute 75 million pounds of food, which requires overcoming a 26-million-pound gap between the current estimates of available food and demand.

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It requires $17 million to source and distribute 10 million pounds of produce and 11 million pounds of dry goods. 

In April, the organization said it was helping twice as many people as usual with SNAP applications. Many of the state's 350 food banks have reported double or triple-sized caseloads since the pandemic began, the Star Tribune reported

Two thirds of Second Harvest Heartland's large distributions are outside the metro. The organization told the Star Tribune food shelves are seeing a lack of volunteers. 

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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