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Proposal would pick up the tab for more than a million prepared meals

Each Thursday, 900 ready-to-eat meals are prepared for students at the University of Minnesota experiencing food insecurity. Those meals typically run out in less than an hour.

That information, submitted in a letter to the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee, was amongst the evidence cited by supporters of HF2225, a bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood) that members considered Wednesday evening.

It would require the Department of Human Services to create a grant program for nonprofit organizations to deliver prepared meals to people experiencing food insecurity and those who have trouble preparing their own meals due to limited mobility, disability, age or resources.

The department would receive $10 million during the upcoming biennium to fund the grants, which would go to nonprofits that have demonstrated a history of providing meals customized to the populations they serve.

The bill was laid over, as amended, for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

“Meals would be targeted to our neighbors not eligible for other federally funded meal programs and tailored to the cultural and dietary needs of Minnesotans being served,” Fischer said.

Grantees would need to prioritize ingredients rescued or donated from the food bank network as well as local ingredients to maximize funding and help the state’s agricultural industry.

In a joint letter submitted with Lutheran Social Services, Second Harvest Heartland officials said it helped more than 813,000 people seeking food assistance in 2021 and that 15% of those clients identified a need for prepared meals.

“Meal distribution supported by these funds will reach across Minnesota, with a focus on the communities that have the greatest need, including communities of color and rural Minnesota counties,” they wrote, adding the funding would provide an estimated 750,000 prepared meals per year.

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