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Why Do So Many Minnesotans Experience Food Insecurity?

September 2020 Educational Resources on Racism: Food Insecurity

By Diana Fraser

Whether they live in the city, a suburb, or Greater Minnesota, nearly one in eight Minnesotans is affected by hunger, proving that issues of food insecurity stretch far and wide across the state.

The year 2019 marked the ninth consecutive year with more than 3 million visits to Minnesota food shelves, according to Hunger Solutions. The math suggests that if Minnesota food shelves were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, more than six people would visit a food shelf every minute.

People utilize food shelves for various reasons: Some folks cannot afford luxury grocery store prices, others do not have access to grocery stores nearby, while many are unemployed and still others are homeless. What they all reveal is that, for a state known for its agriculture, Minnesota has a food access problem.

It gets worse when the data breaks down into racial groups. As of the 2017 MDH Food Access Report, one in three Native American new mothers reported being food insecure at least a year before their baby was born. Large percentages of the tribal nations in Minnesota are known food deserts.

A "food desert" is typically defined as an area where the poverty rate is greater than or equal to 20%, and at least 500 people and/or 33% of the population live more than one mile from a large grocery provider.

Likewise, a 2019 study done by Children's Minnesota Hospital found that, in Hennepin County, a higher percentage of adult respondents reported food insecurity if they identified as Native Americans (49%), Hispanics (46%), African Americans (43%), compared to Asians (31%) or white adults (10%).

While food shelves are one solution, there are several movers and shakers in the Minnesota community who are changing Minnesota's food access narrative for the better. Read on to learn more about these innovators in our community.


Twin Cities PBS is here for you at every stage of learning. Read on to learn how BIPOC folks are ensuring access to food for their communities and infusing that food with love. This month's resources are brought to you by creators, chefs, and data reporters. 

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School Gap Feeding Programs


"Kids will come into school and I'll say, 'You're eating a lot this morning!' and they'll say, 'Yeah, well, I didn't get dinner'," shares Cedric Key of Whittier Summer Food Program.

Watch time: 3 minutes


"When you realize that someone has given up their life so that you can have life, it changes the way you talk to people... It changes the way you care about people. And for me, it changed the way I cook."

Watch & read time: 8 minutes

Food For Every Child: Child Care Feeding Programs


"Food is important. Food is for the soul. Food is what helps you focus," says Jessica Herod.

Watch time: 2 minutes


“I had lost my 16-year-old son the previous year to gun violence… I was pulled to do something in the garden related to food, hearing that the universe would do healing for me there.”

Food For Thought: Conversation Starters

Food For Thought toolkit

Feeding your family can be challenging. No matter who you are, everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food. So how can we engage and reconsider the way we think about food?

Download this toolkit to host your own conversation over dinner - virtual or in-person. Available in English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong.

Read time: 10 minutes

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This educational resource is part of the digital storytelling project Racism Unveiled, which is funded by a grant from the Otto Bremer Trust.

Wondering what kind of good work is unfolding to tackle food justice across the country? Check out the efforts led by these three change-makers who seek out ways to promote ancestral connection and spirituality through agricultural projects.

George Floyd’s police killing has brought together communities in a show of resilience – but it’s also revealed deep-seated racial inequities in access to healthy food now that the Lake Street area, where many grocery stores were damaged or destroyed, has become a food desert. Almanac reporter Kyeland Jackson examines how that lack of food access is actually rooted in racism-charged issues related to access to jobs and opportunities to build wealth.

Relish host Yia Vang teamed up with Chef Jamal Hashi to make the spice-infused Somali dish, Gedo Masala. Known as the “Cape of Spices,” Somali cuisine is rich in layered spice-driven flavors – and according to Hashi, no jar of powder will suffice. The key is to toast your own blend. Find out how.

Diana Fraser Read More
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