Solutions Blog

Food Shelf Visits on Pace to Top 3 Million for Seventh Year 

Minnesotans made 1,487,810 visits to food shelves between January and June 2017. At this pace, Minnesota will record approximately 3 million food shelf visits this year — a number on track with food shelf usage rates during the aftermath of the recession.

How do you get to over 3 million visits?

If it were as simple as doubling the number of visits in the first 6 months of 2017, we’d finish the year at about 2.9 million visits – just short of our over 3 million visit prediction. But we know from looking at previous years’ data and talking to food shelf partners that visits spike during the end of the year.

In November and December, family budgets are stretched thin by holiday expenses and rising utility bills. We see more families turn to food shelves for help during the holiday season because holiday meals are expensive and food shelves have special holiday programs that contribute to the rise in visits.

Visits unchanged from 5 years ago

Food shelf visits are generally on par with data from the same time period 5 years ago (Jan-Jun. 2012):

  • Children: Decrease of 7.8%
  • Seniors: Increase of 27.3%
  • Adults: Increase of 1.9%
  • Total: Decrease of 0.1%

It’s important to note the continued increase in the number of seniors visiting food shelves, up 27.3% from 5 years ago. Seniors visits went up for a couple of different reasons: 1.) Seniors, especially those who are retired and living on a fixed income, are finding it increasingly difficult to afford food, and 2.) Mobile food shelves have been very successful in overcoming mobility and transportation challenges for seniors.

Long-term trend

Annual visits to food shelves rose during the recession and have continued to rise since the end of the recession. We’ve recorded six consecutive years of over 3 million visits and are on track for a 7th now as well.

Why worry?

This high number of visits to food shelves is particularly troubling given the massive cuts to essential programs passed earlier this month by Congressional budget resolutions. These cuts include a $150 billion cut in funding to SNAP alone.

There is absolutely no way that our charitable food system—the network of food shelves, food banks, and meal programs that serve Minnesotans in need—could absorb the food needs of individuals kicked off the SNAP program by these proposed cuts. The system is already operating at peak capacity after 6 years of serving so many visitors. If SNAP is cut, half-a-million more Minnesotans will need help getting food on the table for themselves and their families–putting a bigger strain on a charitable food system already stretched thin.

What can we do about it?

Easy ways to help!

1 Donate
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