A program designed to give access to healthy, affordable food to Minnesotans will run out of funding without reinvestment from the Legislature this year. Health groups are urging lawmakers to renew it.
Distance and income are a barrier to food for more than 340,000 Minnesotans, and about 235,000 people in the state live more than 10 miles from a large grocery store. In response to this issue, state legislators created the Good Food Access fund in 2016, providing loans, grants and technical assistance to small retailers in areas that lacked access to healthy, affordable food.
Lorna Schmidt, government affairs director for the American Heart Association-Minnesota, said interest in the program surpassed expectations and outpaced available dollars.
“Although the investment by the Legislature has had a positive and significant impact already, it hasn’t been enough to fully realize the potential of this program and address it in all areas of the state that need it,” Schmidt said.
Applicants have until Jan. 17 to apply for a Good Food Access grant to help with infrastructure needs. Schmidt said without a reinvestment from the Legislature, money for the program will run out next year.
Schmidt said the program also is funding innovative approaches to feeding people in underserved areas. She pointed to a project from the White Earth Nation.
“They are building and expanding upon a mobile food market,” she said. “And so, in areas of the state where it’s less viable to maintain a brick-and-mortar grocery store, we’re also seeing communities come together to look at how do we still make sure that the food is then brought to those individuals.”
Along with the health benefits, Schmidt noted the program also helps support small communities by preserving anchor businesses and jobs as well as providing an outlet for locally grown food.