Minn. funding for food shelves increases 30%

The legislative session that ended last week brought more help for food shelves.

Lawmakers approved an additional $750,000 for the state's food shelves per biennium, a 30 percent increase over current funding levels.

Food shelves needed the boost because they have experienced a 165 percent rise in visits over the past decade, said Colleen Moriarty, the executive director of Hunger Solutions, an advocacy group.

"Food shelves, although because of the generosity of many people have been able to keep up with the need, the strain of year after year after year has really kind of pushed them to the breaking point," she said, "where they were cutting back service, cutting back hours, cutting back how much they were able to give people."

Besides using the money to buy food, Moriarty said, she hopes the food shelves also use it to extend their days and hours.

"As the population shifts of people who use food shelves, and more and more are working people --over 60 percent of the people visiting food shelves are working people -- those people aren't available during the day," she said.

It was a good session overall for hunger issues, she said. Lawmakers also renewed a million-dollar milk grant for food shelves.

However, an effort to expand the free school lunch program failed, as did a bill that would have prevented schools from turning away children who lack money for lunch.

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