MN Mobile Food Pantries in Need of More Funding

Minnesota's population is aging, particularly in rural areas, where many seniors don't have easy access to grocery stores.

Hunger-fighting advocates will continue their work in 2017 to help those who don’t have enough to eat. Some food shelves in Minnesota have gone mobile to get to people who have transportation issues or live in rural areas and don’t have easy access to grocery stores.

Angela Nissen, outreach program manager for Prairie Five Community Action, said as people retire and try to reduce expenses, they often move out of cities – without realizing it may be more difficult to get to the store.

“Small towns don’t have gas stations or cafes or pharmacies anymore, let alone a grocery store,” Nissen said. “So, those limitations on transportation, and the distance they have to travel – especially the senior citizens – makes it very hard on their daily life.”

In 2015, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $2 million in mobile food shelf funding. It’s a partnership with Hunger Solutions Minnesota, and 35 grants have been awarded to mobile food shelves throughout the state. Nissen said another two dozen organizations want to start delivering food, but there isn’t enough money to fund them at this point.

Need is increasing

Peter Woitock is a community organizer with Hunger Solutions Minnesota. He said the need has been increasing.

“We’ve heard through our Minnesota help lines people calling in saying they just don’t have a car or don’t have the resources to make it to a food shelf,” Woitock said. “And so it’s helping out a lot of folks there – even, like, apartment buildings and senior centers, where people just don’t have the ability to make it to a food shelf.”

Nissen said mobile food shelves also give people flexibility, because it can be hard to convince senior citizens to accept help.

“They’re not comfortable going to a food shelf. There’s a pride issue there with those, so we’re looking at ways to bring food to their door,” she said. “We have a transportation program and a senior nutrition program – so the mobile food shelf was a great fit for us.”

Now that the Minnesota Legislature is back in session, advocates are asking for a funding increase for mobile food shelves, so they can reach more people in need.

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