More Minnesotans visiting food shelves in 2022 than in previous years

More Minnesotans have visited food shelves this year than any other year on record, continuing an unprecedented surge in demand for food assistance that began with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minnesota’s nearly 400 food shelves are on pace to record 5.1 million visits in 2022, according to preliminary data — the highest number in the state’s history and far surpassing the record 3.8 million visits in 2020 when the pandemic first hit, spurring furloughs and layoffs. From Bemidji to Burnsville, food shelves are seeing a jump in the number of people in need, especially older adults and families seeking help for the first time.

“We’ve got more people than ever coming through,” said Michelle Ness, executive director of PRISM, a Golden Valley nonprofit that’s serving more than double the number of people it did in 2019 and more than in the past two years. “This isn’t sustainable. We’re the safety net to the safety net.”

A steady stream of clients navigated snowy roads Tuesday to pick up toilet paper, apples, bread and other essential items from PRISM’s food shelf. There was a single mother who didn’t have child care and depended on free food to feed her two children. The Russian couple that moved to Minnesota two months ago and are eager to find work while navigating a new language. The 71-year-old retired airline mechanic who cares for his ailing brother.

“A lot of people out there, they do need this,” said Zandra Ankle, a 64-year-old retiree who picked up cereal

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