This summer, The Open Door has seen some of the largest food distribution numbers in its 13-year history. In the month of August alone, The Open Door programs combined (Eagan Pantry, Mobile Pantry, Mobile Lunchbox and Garden to Table) served 11,566 households, 34,108 individuals and distributed 376,292 pounds of food. That’s a 33% increase from July 2022 and a 133% increase from August 2021.
Pair those large output numbers with a drastic decline in donations and government support, and Dakota County finds itself amid a hunger crisis, and it’s not alone. Food shelves across the state, and the entire country, are reporting that visits are back to peak pandemic numbers. KSTP stopped by The Open Door’s large-scale Metcalf distribution earlier in September to cover the current demand at food shelves and how high inflation is playing a big role.
Watch the video coverage HERE and read the full story below.
High inflation steady, demand at food shelves are up with donations down
Ben Henry KSTP
Updated: September 14, 2022 – 8:44 AM
Published: September 14, 2022 – 7:39 AM
As inflation and high prices continue to grapple with Minnesota families, demand at food shelves is up with donations fill the need down.
At the beginning of the pandemic, The Open Door started their free Pop-Up Pantry Food Drive Thru held at the former Metcalf Middle School, in Burnsville — expecting it to be a temporary effort to help those in need, the pop-up events still happen every Tuesday.
“When we think about our weekly distribution at Metcalf, it’s really turned into a barometer for community need,” Jason Viana, executive director for The Open Door, said, adding: “Throughout the last year, it’s really ebbed and flowed.”
Following a dip earlier this summer, demand is back up — more than 7,500 people came through their Tuesday drives in August.
“Since inflation has set in, we’ve seen things go right back to where they were, which tells us clearly [that] people are really teetering on the edge of needing help and not — and it doesn’t take much to push them towards us,” Viana said.
While dropping since its peak, Tuesday’s inflation report shows prices are still high — up 8.3% from a year ago. In August, there was a record increase in grocery prices — increasing more than 14% from last year.
“The theme to the story has been inflation,” Viana added. “Inflation hits our donors too — so as inflation has gone up, we have seen donations decrease.”
St. Paul based Hunger Solutions tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS their donations have decreased 25% from last year. Adding, attracting new donors has been a challenge because of “how expensive cost of living is.”
While food donations are welcome, these organizations can stretch a dollar much further:
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, The White House will hold a National Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health for the first time in nearly 50 years. Hunger Solutions Minnesota’s Executive Director, Colleen Moriarty, will be attending the conference in person in Washington, D.C., representing greater Minnesota. Check out the conference schedule and join virtually any time between 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET and read the full National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.