Aug 20, 2012 at 8:28 am
ST. CLOUD, MN (KNSI) - With food shelf use in the state at a record high, Minnesota is stepping up its efforts to increase access to healthy food for the poor.
A first-of-its-kind Food Access Summit will be held this week in Duluth, bringing together local food activists, direct service providers, the public health community and more. C
There are many challenges when it comes to combating hunger in the state. It starts with those who are dealing with a lack of food for years on end, but Christine Pulver with Keystone Community Services said there is another section of the population also going hungry.
"At the other end we are also seeing new people come into these programs who have never needed help before in their lives," Pulver said. "Those are the families that are most difficult to serve because there is a lot of pride that is getting in the way of using the services they need."
Another issue of focus at the summit will be getting more senior citizens to access food programs. It's estimated that less than half of those eligible for food stamps, no called SNAP benefits, are enrolled.
"The response that I have had from a number of seniors is that they don't want to utilize the program because the want that to go to families with young children," Pulver said. "You want to say, here you've come to a time when you yourself need it, why not access it?"
A growing number of young people in the state who are struggling with finances and finding shelter sometimes lack access to nutritious food, another element of the hunger problem the summit will look to address.
"Because we are seeing an increase in the number of homeless youth, those kids need a more welcome environment when they are served a nutrition program," Pulver said. "They need food that is easy to prepare and access to other services because they are quite an at risk population."
Currently 500,000 Minnesotans of all ages and backgrounds access SNAP benefits on a monthly basis.