Hunger Affects Us All

FFEN exists to fight hunger at the food shelf level and believes that a strong and stable food shelf system is critical to a thriving Minnesota.

Today, food shelves are experiencing two significant trends affecting their missions. First, food shelf visits in Minnesota continue to increase in numbers requiring more food as well as creative and efficient food shelf sourcing and operations.

Second, what it takes to successfully run a food shelf is also changing.  As visits increase, more fresh food options are becoming the “industry standard.” Food shelves now need more skilled fundraising, vision and new operational know-how to expand capacity and provide cost effective, consistent, healthier food options for those who visit.

Hunger is a serious issue

Hunger in our communities is often a hidden concern, but it can affect all ages and those living in rural, suburban or urban areas.  Working families with budgets pinched by stagnant wages in lower paying jobs, high housing costs and even unexpected medical bills can find themselves needing food shelf support.  And as our population continues to age, many seniors on fixed incomes can struggle with access to food.


Minnesota food shelf visits, 2006 -- 2018 (Great Recession in grey)


(1) Hunger Solutions Minnesota and SuperShelf Food Shelf Client Survey 2017

(2) Congressional Research Service, “Real Wage Trends, 1979-2017,” Sarah A. Donovan and David H. Bradley, March 15, 2018.

(3) Food shelf reports to MN DHS; Analysis by Hunger Solutions Minnesota

(4) U.S. Census Bureau; Minnesota State Demographic Center.

(5) Minnesota Housing Partnership: State of the State’s Housing 2019

Hunger in Minnesota
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In 2017, 53% of clients got about half or more of their total food from the food shelf. (1)

Clients rely on food shelves for longer periods; 74% have been using a food shelf for more than a year. (1)

Between 1979-2017, real (inflation adjusted) wages for the lowest-wage (10th percentile) , US earners increased a cumulative 1.2%, while the highest-wage earners (90th percentile) increased 34.3%. (2)

Senior (65+) food shelf visits are up nearly 40% from 2012 - 2017. (3)

By 2030, 1 in 5 Minnesotans will be 65+. (4)

27% of Minnesota households pay more than they can afford for housing and are more likely to have insufficient resources for basic needs like food and medicine. (5)

Food shelves' evolution

to fresh food

Offering more fresh food options at food shelves is a relatively new operational shift that is very positive for clients, meaning improved nutritional choices and variety.  Indeed, food shelf visitors’ most requested items are “fresh” ones.  As food shelves across the state look at adapting and improving their offerings, many strategic, operational, process and financial considerations emerge. Moving from the historical “cans and boxes” food shelf to a fresher, grocery-store like setting requires not only culture change within the organization but also changes in equipment, layout, volunteer roles, and food sourcing and distribution processes.

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Find out how FFEN is responding


(1) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Promoting food security for all children. Pediatrics, 136(5), e1431–e1438. 78 Gregory, C. A., & Coleman-Jensen, A. (2017).  

(2)  Food insecurity, chronic disease, and health among working-age adults. Economic Research Report, 235. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

(3) Alaimo, K., Olson, C.M., Frongillo, E.A. Jr. Food insufficiency and American school-aged children’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development. Pediatrics. 108(1):44-53, 2001 Jul.

Effects of hunger relief
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Helps reduces health care costs related to poor nutrition, especially among developing children and those with chronic diseases. (1, 2)


Helps kids go to school ready to concentrate and learn—kids are our workforce of the future. (3)


Helps stabilize families and employee productivity. (2)