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Minnesota is stepping up its efforts to increase food access and help the hungry. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and partners are directly involved in efforts, including the first-of-its-kind Food Access Summit in Minnesota, to reduce hunger in Minnesota.
Food Access Summit
The Food Access Summit Aug. 21-23 in Duluth, Minn., will educate attendees about the challenges of food access and production, and promote collaboration among those who are committed to increasing work in this area throughout the state.
The summit is a group effort by DHS, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Lake Superior Good Food Network, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota FoodShare, Twin Cities Hunger Initiative and the University of Minnesota Extension. Most event sponsors are also part of the Nutritious Food Coalition, which was launched earlier this year by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon.
“This summit is a wonderful opportunity to engage with our partners as well as other Minnesotans concerned about increasing food access,” said DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “I’m encouraged by so many organizations and participants who are committed to collaborating to increase Minnesotans’ quality of life.”
The summit includes presentations by Prettner Solon, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe, Chef and President and CEO of Wholesome Wave Michel Nischan, and Oregon Hunger Task Force and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon Executive Director Patti Whitney-Wise; workshops featuring local and national leaders in the public and private sector; opportunities to tour local food-related sites; and a closing call to action for participants.
Federal officials visit
Federal officials will visit the Midtown Farmers Market, a project of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, at Lake Street and 22nd Avenue South, Minneapolis, on Aug. 21 to:
Observe how Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are used at farmers markets to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits; currently, more than 500,000 Minnesotans per month access SNAP; more than 30 farmers markets offer EBT card access
Learn about Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Market Bucks program, which offers a $5 match for every $5 a SNAP recipient spends at participating farmers markets
Learn about the University of Minnesota Extension’s Simply Good Eating program.
At 3 p.m., Prettner Solon, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Rowe will give brief remarks. USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Regional Administrator Ollice Holden and other partners involved in increasing the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets will attend. Media are welcome to attend and participate in a brief Q and A for reporters at 3:20 p.m.
DHS is using approximately $10,000 from a USDA grant to increase the number of Minnesota farmers markets which accept EBT cards. This will increase convenience for SNAP participants, enabling them to use their benefits at local farmers markets, and increase their access to fresh, wholesome food. These new markets will start accepting EBT cards by the end of this market season or early next season.
“All of these efforts point to increased food access for all Minnesotans,” said Jesson. “We are actively engaging local, state, and national partners to make sure that healthy food is a reality for all. Without healthy forms of sustenance, Minnesotans cannot prosper. We hope to increase our citizens’ quality of life through these initiatives and to make the future brighter for all people in our state.”