Senator Matt Schmit (DFL – Red Wing) presented legislation this week in the Senate committee on Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development that attempts to add another source for Minnesota’s food shelves. The senator’s legislation focuses on collecting produce that would normally go unharvested and distributing it to food shelves and other organizations.
“Every year, otherwise-edible Minnesota-grown produce doesn’t make it to harvest or to market,” said Sen. Schmit. “The farm to food shelf legislation would ensure that much of this produce is made available to hard-working Minnesota families struggling to put food on the table.”
The legislation includes $1.5 million for a grant to Second Harvest Heartland, on behalf of the six Feeding America food banks that serve Minnesota, to compensate agricultural producers and processors for costs incurred to harvest and package surplus fruits, vegetables, or other agricultural commodities. The bill also calls for a report from Second Harvest Heartland following the use of the grant.
According to Second Harvest Heartland, more than 600,000 Minnesotans suffer from the debilitating effects of hunger by collectively missing 100 million meals every year. The “missing meal” gap costs Minnesota up to $1.6 billion annually in health care and education expenses. Furthermore, some 210 pounds of edible Minnesota crops each year aren’t harvested or aren’t sent to market due to excess capacity — leaving an “agricultural surplus” of fresh produce going to waste. When collected and distributed to food shelves, this “ag surplus” makes a significant difference in relieving hunger, improving public health, and reducing costs for health care and education.
“Our food shelves have seen a dramatic increase in demand following the nation’s economic downturn,” said Sen. Schmit. “Although our state economy has bounced back from the recession, many of our families are still struggling to make ends meet. I’m grateful for the work Second Harvest Heartland and Minnesota’s food shelf network is doing throughout the state and I hope the farm to food shelf idea can have a big impact on their work and on families who rely upon it.”
The legislation passed with unanimous support and will be included in budget bills both the Senate and House. For more information on Second Harvest Heartland, visit their website at http://www.2harvest.org/. Senator Schmit can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 651-296-4264.