Solutions Blog

Food Shelves See Record Number of Visits in 2017

Minnesotans visited food shelves 3,402,077 times in 2017 –the highest number of visits in recorded history. That’s about 50,000 more visits than the previous high set in 2014.

This marks the seventh consecutive year with more than 3 million visits to our food shelves. In other words, since the recession, over three million food shelf visits has become the “new normal” in Minnesota.

If Minnesota food shelves were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, more than six people would visit a food shelf every minute.

During the recession, the number of food shelf visits rose along with the unemployment rate. Despite falling unemployment numbers, however, food shelf usage is increasing. Minnesota’s unemployment and poverty rates are among the lowest in the country and our per capita income and homeownership are among the highest. Yet thousands of Minnesotan families are still struggling to put food on their tables.

Download the Food Shelf Visit Fact Sheet (PDF)

Who visits food shelves?

The fastest growing group of visitors are seniors (adults 65 and older) at 308,609 — up 39.3 percent from 2012. Adult usage, overall, increased by 11.1 percent from 2012 to 1,855,780 visits. Children represented 36.4 percent of food shelf usage in Minnesota for a total of 1,237,688 visits.

Why are seniors the fastest growing group of food shelf visitors?

It’s important to note the continued increase in the number of seniors visiting food shelves, up 39.3% from 5 years ago. Seniors, especially those who are retired and living on a fixed income, are finding it increasingly difficult to afford food. New and expanded mobile food shelves have been very successful in overcoming mobility and transportation challenges for seniors.

Where do people use food shelves?

The number of food shelf visits track pretty closely with the population across the state.


% total visits % of population
Central 11.5% 12.7%
Metro 54.7% 54.9%
NE 6.3% 5.9%
NW 9.3% 10.2%
SE 10.3% 9.1%
SW 7.7% 7.1%



Interested in county-level data? View the county map

What’s the trend?

Visits to food shelves rose quickly during the recession. And they have continued to rise since the end of the recession. We’ve recorded seven consecutive years of over 3 million visits. 2017 marks a new record-high visit total.

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