Of the 28 bills Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) sponsors, he said HF1233 is the most important because it has “the most essential need.”
The bill would appropriate $1.15 million for food shelf programs above the base appropriation for the current biennium. It would become part of the base for the Fiscal Year 2010-11 biennium.
“We are dealing here with basic human rights, the right to nutrition,” he told the House Housing Policy and Finance and Public Health Finance Division March 5.
The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a division omnibus bill. A Senate companion, SF1331, sponsored by Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee.
Colleen Moriarty, executive director for Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said food shelves have seen a 60 percent increase in visits since 2000. The state’s 300 food shelves had 1.9 million visits last year and distributed 47 million pounds of food.
While demand is up, there hasn’t been an increase in state funding since the program was established in 1995. While many communities step forward to help, they can’t keep up with the demand, Moriarty said.
Clearly the economic times are having an effect on the usage, said Rep. Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti). He asked whether food shelves have looked at recovering foods from places such as grocery stores and bread companies.
Moriarty said they work with several groups for food recovery and are constantly looking for more. Although, there is less because companies have gotten better at producing foods and dollar stores now purchase items businesses used to donate to food shelves, she said.
Eastlund suggested the Legislature provide incentives to retailers to donate more to food shelves.
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