Second Harvest Heartland announces goal to cut state hunger in half by 2030

A woman talks at a podium
Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan speaks at Second Harvest Heartland on Monday in Brooklyn Park. The organization announced a new initiative to reduce state hunger.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

Second Harvest Heartland, one of the largest food banks in the country, said it plans to cut the state’s growing hunger problem in half by 2030 through a new “care center” team connecting people to economic and social services and by identifying hunger hot spots.

At an event Monday, Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Second Harvest Heartland officials and other partners gathered to announce the new “Make Hunger History” initiative.  

Second Harvest Heartland CEO Allison O’Toole said food shelf visits are climbing at record rates — from 3.5 million in 2021 to 7.5 million in 2023. 

“That means last year we all saw families lined up around the block in extreme temperatures and right here at our food bank we’re seeing more record-setting days when we pack up and drive up a half a million pounds of food in a day,” O’Toole said. 

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A person packing food
A Second Harvest Heartland volunteer works to pack food for food shelves on Monday in Brooklyn Park.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

The plan, which O’Toole said will cost an estimated $150-200 million over the next 4 to 5 years, aims to identify which communities are facing the greatest needs. 

“If we get all in, business leaders, policymakers, volunteers, supporters, advocates, we can get ahead of hunger, we can target the roots of the problem,” O’Toole said. 

Minnesota companies Target and Cargill each contributed $10 million to the initiative. 

When asked how much the proposal would cost taxpayers, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan didn’t give specific numbers, but she said making the investment now will help save people money in the long term. 

“The dollars that we put in to go to food shelves this last session, we know that those are being distributed, there certainly is more that we need to do,” Flanagan said. 

Apples in a cardboard box
Apples, among other food, are part of Second Harvest Heartland's food shelf in Brooklyn Park.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

O’Toole said other food assistance programs in the state will benefit from the initiative, but she said Second Harvest Heartland doesn’t know who those organizations will be yet. 

“But we’re going to find out and when we dive in with community members to better serve a community, we're going to figure that out,” O’Toole said. 

She said the organization works with more than 1,000 food assistance programs in the state. 

Second Harvest Heartland employs about 250 people and has had an annual budget of close to $230 million over the last 3 to 4 years.