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The Minnesota Nutritious Food Coalition is celebrating its first year of working together to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally-funded program that helps Minnesotans with low incomes get the food they need to live healthy lives.
The public-private partnership brings together experts from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and numerous state, county, business, nonprofit and community organizations. It has met quarterly since its launch championed by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon in January 2012.
While more than 500,000 Minnesotans receive nutrition assistance benefits each month, they represent only 65 percent of eligible Minnesotans and 44 percent of eligible seniors age 60 and over. Over the last year, coalition members have worked to increase participation in SNAP, identify barriers and areas for expansion, and develop a coordinated outreach effort to ensure all Minnesotans who are eligible for the program have an opportunity to apply for it.
“Access to nutritious, healthy food is essential for Minnesotans to live full and productive lives. Well-nourished children do better in school, employees take fewer sick days and seniors can remain independent longer when they have access to the food they need,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who presented a proclamation from Gov. Mark Dayton declaring January Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Outreach Month at the coalition’s meeting today.
Not only is SNAP vital to the health of Minnesotans, it is also good for the economic health of the state. An estimated $1.73 in economic activity is generated for every $1 in SNAP benefits.
In the coalition’s first year, partners including General Mills, Hunger Solutions Minnesota and Hunger-Free Minnesota developed and implemented a statewide outreach campaign designed to increase participation among seniors and newly eligible populations. Meals on Wheels, the Emergency Foodshelf Network and other members distributed materials to their clients. The effort, which was recognized with a 2012 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award, saw immediate impact. Through this campaign and other coalition efforts, between January and September 2012, approximately 65,700 households enrolled that were new to SNAP or returned to SNAP after an absence of more than one year. In 2012, SNAP enrollment among seniors age 60 and over grew by more than 2,500.