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For more than one in ten Minnesota households, getting enough healthy food is sometimes a problem.

Some people skip meals so their kids can eat; some go to extreme lengths to consume enough food. Many turn to cheap calories, and most experience the anxiety that comes with not always knowing where they will find their next meal.

MPR News is exploring hunger, looking at causes and consequences, at public policy and the latest research, at gaps in the system and at innovative ways Minnesota residents are finding to help. This Ground Level topic page is a compilation of our coverage.


Jump in food need has Minnesota schools looking for ways to help

New data from the shows more students rely on the National School Lunch Program. The numbers have school officials looking for ways to ensure kids are well-fed and able to learn.

Small grocery store fills gap in W. Minn. 'food desert'

In rural areas across Minnesota, thousands of residents live in communities without a major grocery store. In Big Stone County, small grocers are helping fill the gap.

Cooking classes for low-income Minnesotans offer healthy, tasty tips

A survey recently found nearly 80 percent of low- and moderate-income families cook evening meals at least five times a week.

Minnesota campaign aims to expand food stamp rolls

A new statewide outreach campaigns to enroll more Minnesotans in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Distance complicates, impedes healthy diets for some

The challenge of buying enough healthy food is complicated by distance. Thousands of people live in communities without a grocery store — leaving them to pay more, in time and money.

Researchers untangling link between hunger and obesity

In the past, hunger may have conjured up images of gaunt faces or rail-thin children. Today, some people who struggle to feed their families are actually obese.
Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

Minn. food shelves prefer cash to cans

Minnesota's 319 food shelves will take your food donations this holiday season, but this year they really want your cash.
Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

Communities and hunger relief organizations have been working for weeks to make sure everyone gets a meal this Thanksgiving, but higher food prices are making it harder.
Hunger, helping hands move out to the suburbs

Hunger, helping hands move out to the suburbs

The number of people struggling to feed themselves and their families is on the rise in the Twin Cities suburbs, including the middle class and affluent communities of Minnetonka, Eagan and Lakeville.
Fighting hunger on the reservation, with traditional foods

On the reservation, fighting hunger with traditional foods

Before they signed treaties with the U.S. government, Ojibwe Indians followed the seasons and ate the food that surrounded them. Those ways are making a return.
For the young and homeless, hunger can be a top concern

Hunger plagues the young and homeless

We take a look at how food can become a main problem for young people without homes — and how they learn to survive.
As jobs leave Kanabec Co., poverty and hunger rise

Poverty and hunger rise in Kanabec Co.

With an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent — among the state's highest — Kanabec County has many people in need, some for the first time.
To afford food, seniors stretch dollars and rely on others

Seniors stretch dollars and rely on others

Research shows that seniors who struggle with food are significantly more likely to be in fair or poor health. In a small town on Minnesota's western border, the seniors there work to get by.
A Face of Hunger: Migrant Workers in southern Minn.

Migrant Workers in southern Minn.

Every year, workers from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas gather their children and clothes and drive 1,500 miles to southern Minnesota, in an annual migration that spans generations. Most work for vegetable processing plants, but often go hungry.
Rescued food helps feed the hungry

Rescued food helps feed the hungry

In Minnesota alone, we throw out more than 715 million pounds of food each year. Hunger relief organizations are increasing their efforts to save the portion of that food that's edible — and get it to hungry Minnesotans.
Minnesotans miss 100 million meals a year

Minnesotans miss 100 million meals a year

A study by the hunger relief organization Feeding America estimates that Minnesotans struggling with hunger collectively miss almost 100 million meals each year.
Food shelves evolve as needs change

Food shelves evolve as needs change

A few decades ago, a food shelf was sometimes just that — a shelf with food on it. But in recent years, food shelves have become such a central part of the way the nation fights hunger that it's easy to forget they didn't always exist.
Schools try to keep kids fed in summer

Schools try to keep kids fed in summer

It's lunchtime at St. James High School in southwest Minnesota, and students are filling their trays with Salisbury steak, broccoli and applesauce — the kind of variety some may not have at home.

How big of a problem is hunger in Minnesota?

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10.5 percent of Minnesota households are food insecure. That means they sometimes struggle to get enough nutritious food for a healthy lifestyle.

Jump in food need has Minnesota schools looking for ways to help

May 7, 2012
New data from the Minnesota Department of Education show a growing number of students rely on the federally-funded National School Lunch Program. The numbers have school officials looking for ways to ensure kids are well-fed and able to learn -- even outside school hours.

Small grocery store fills gap in W. Minn. 'food desert'

April 4, 2012
In rural areas across Minnesota, thousands of residents live in communities without a major grocery store. That can create a real challenge for low-income residents who end up spending more time and money on their food. In Big Stone County, small grocers are helping fill the gap.

Cooking classes for low-income Minnesotans offer healthy, tasty tips

February 27, 2012
A survey recently found nearly 80 percent of low- and moderate-income families cook evening meals at least five times a week. Two-thirds said they want to learn more about making healthy food. Cooking education programs in Minnesota are ramping up to meet that demand.

Minnesota campaign aims to expand food stamp rolls

February 23, 2012
A new statewide outreach campaigns to enroll more Minnesotans in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, encouraging those who qualify for government food aid to apply for it.

Distance complicates, impedes healthy diets for some

February 14, 2012
The challenge of buying enough healthy food is complicated by distance. Thousands of people live in communities without a grocery store — leaving them to pay more, in time and money.

Researchers untangling link between hunger and obesity

January 27, 2012
The picture of hunger in America is changing. In the past, hunger may have conjured up images of gaunt faces or rail-thin children. Today, some people who struggle to feed their families are actually obese.

Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

Minn. food shelves prefer cash to cans

January 27, 2012
Minnesota's 319 food shelves will take your food donations this holiday season, but this year they really want your cash.

Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

Tough times challenge efforts to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving

November 22, 2011
Communities and hunger relief organizations have been working for weeks to make sure everyone gets a meal this Thanksgiving, but higher food prices are making it harder.

Hunger, helping hands move out to the suburbs

Hunger, helping hands move out to the suburbs

November 10, 2011
The number of people struggling to feed themselves and their families is on the rise in the Twin Cities suburbs, including the middle class and affluent communities of Minnetonka, Eagan and Lakeville.

 

Lydia Olsen

May, 7 2012

Lydia Olsen was just 22 years old when she found a way to feed hungry kids in Watonwan County. Read more »

Dan Farm

May, 7 2012

Dan Farm remembers exactly when he realized something had to be done. Read more »

Mustafa Sundiata

May, 7 2012

The number of Minnesotans visiting food shelves is on the rise, and Mustafa Sundiata is doing all he can to make sure the experience is as pleasant as possible. Read more »

Terry Hassan

May, 7 2012

It can be hard to convince Minnesota's seniors to sign up for food stamps, but Terry Hassan is not easily deterred. Read more »

Fighting hunger on the reservation, with traditional foods

On the reservation, fighting hunger with traditional foods

October 3, 2011
Before they signed treaties with the U.S. government, Ojibwe Indians followed the seasons and ate the food that surrounded them. Those ways are making a return.

For the young and homeless, hunger can be a top concern

Hunger plagues the young and homeless

September 6, 2011
We take a look at how food can become a main problem for young people without homes — and how they learn to survive.

As jobs leave Kanabec Co., poverty and hunger rise

Poverty and hunger rise in Kanabec Co.

August 17, 2011
With an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent — among the state's highest — Kanabec County has many people in need, some for the first time.

To afford food, seniors stretch dollars and rely on others

Seniors stretch dollars and rely on others

August 3, 2011
Research shows that seniors who struggle with food are significantly more likely to be in fair or poor health. In a small town on Minnesota's western border, the seniors there work to get by.

A Face of Hunger: Migrant Workers in southern Minn.

Migrant Workers in southern Minn.

July 12, 2011
Every year, workers from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas gather their children and clothes and drive 1,500 miles to southern Minnesota, in an annual migration that spans generations. Most work for vegetable processing plants, but often go hungry.

Rescued food helps feed the hungry

Rescued food helps feed the hungry

May 14, 2011
In Minnesota alone, we throw out more than 715 million pounds of food each year. State officials say that's how much we send to landfills or garbage burners. Hunger relief organizations are increasing their efforts to save the portion of that food that's edible — and get it to hungry Minnesotans.

Minnesotans miss 100 million meals a year

Minnesotans miss 100 million meals a year

March 25, 2011
A study by the hunger relief organization Feeding America estimates that Minnesotans struggling with hunger collectively miss almost 100 million meals each year.

Food shelves evolve as needs change

Food shelves evolve as needs change

March 18, 2011
A few decades ago, a food shelf was sometimes just that — a shelf with food on it. Perhaps it was a cupboard in a church basement. But in recent years, food shelves have become such a central part of the way the nation fights hunger that it's easy to forget they didn't always exist.

Schools try to keep kids fed in summer

Schools try to keep kids fed in summer

February 15, 2011
It's lunchtime at St. James High School in southwest Minnesota, and students are filling their trays with Salisbury steak, broccoli and applesauce — the kind of variety some may not have at home.

A Face of Hunger: Migrant workers in southern Minn.
Hunger effort's goals echo project to end homelessness
Coalition launches effort to fight hunger in Minn.
Hungry mothers reflect on struggle to feed children
A focus on healthier food for the homeless
School lunch prices to rise
Food shelves look to replenish stock
Outreach encourages seniors to apply for food help
Hospitals hand out food to needy
School backpacks give kids food for weekends
Food shelf visits rise

 

 

Free and Reduced lunch numbers

This map shows the percentage of students in each Minnesota school district who receive free or reduced lunch, which is typically used as an indicator of the poverty level in a community. Click on a school district to view the information for that district. Source: Minnesota Department of Education


 

Interactive map of Minnesota counties showing food stamp participation as a percentage of population.


 

Graphic Food Stamp Participation Eligibility

Food stamp participation as percentage of eligibility. Map of counties with more than 20K people.

Ground Level launched in early 2010 focusing on a wide variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state. The Ground Level Blog chronicles the wide variety of topics with over 500

 

We identify topics that are significant and complex and that play out uniquely at the local level. We want to explore those issues in which people taking action in their communities make a difference and can serve as guides for others.

Ground Level launched in early 2010 and shines a light on a variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state.

We experiment with coverage on a variety of platforms. This includes text, audio and video online, of course - the Ground Level blog, a series of topics pages and social networking, for example. It also includes on-air coverage, public forums both virtual and real-world and collaboration with community-based media.

Our audience consists of Minnesotans interested in community life, particularly those who are taking an active part in it or helping others do the same. Ground Level is very much an experiment -- in finding ways to learn about and tell stories, in working with other organizations, in walking up to the line between providing insight and advocating specific actions. Our goal is to inform and give people the ability and incentive to engage with their community. We invite your feedback and your ideas, via the blog, twitter at @MPRGroundLevel, phone calls, emails, whatever. Join us.

About the team:

Dave Peters

Dave Peters directs MPR’s project on community journalism, looking for ways Minnesota residents are making their towns, cities and neighborhoods better places to live. He joined MPR News in 2009 after more than 30 years as a newspaper and online reporter and editor. Contact Dave

 

Jennifer Vogel

Jennifer Vogel reports and writes for the Ground Level project, focusing on complex topics that play out in Minnesota's communities and that involve residents getting engaged with the challenges of the day. She is a longtime Twin Cities writer and editor who joined MPR News and Ground Level in January 2010. Contact Jennifer


Bush Foundation

Support for Ground Level is provided
by the Bush Foundation.