Although many families in Minnesota have relatively recovered from the economic recession, financial well being still remains out of reach for many people in our community. Stable jobs with family-sustaining wages continue to decline in suburbs across the region, leading to persistent food insecurity. There are now more people living below the poverty line in America’s suburbs than its urban centers.
VEAP has seen first-hand how our visitors have experienced a dramatically unequal economic recovery. In 2019, visits to our On-site Food Pantry reached record highs—last year, we distributed 4,333,522 pounds of food to families, individuals, seniors and children, a full 20 percent more than all of 2018. That’s higher than our previous record in 2017 by nearly 600,000 pounds. While we are honored to serve so many families in our community—and to have the internal capacity thanks to our volunteers and supporters to distribute so much food—the growing needs of our visitors remain a challenging constant.
Across the state, visits to food pantries are up, especially among seniors and those on fixed incomes. Housing costs in Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and South Minneapolis continue to rise and incomes are simply not keeping pace with increasing costs, creating deep financial strain for the families and individuals that utilize VEAP’s services. Many households visiting VEAP are paying upwards of 60% of their take-home pay on housing costs—an unsustainable amount.
VEAP’s team is laser-focused on pulling the highest levers possible to ease families’ financial stress, and to achieve that, we do so much more than just food distribution. Our model holistically addresses our visitors’ needs: How can we support them with housing advice? Can we connect them with additional resources for childcare, transportation, and health care? How can we problem solve with them, extending kindness and compassion while doing so?
Both our On-site Food Pantry and Mobile Food Pantry serve important roles as much-needed budgeting tools that allow families to funnel their money towards other expenses—like rent, heat, and other bills—instead of groceries. We will continue to support as many individuals in 2020 as we can, working to build stronger and more hopeful communities. Our team remains doubly committed to this mission and to ensuring that everyone who needs access to healthy food in our community has it.
As we enter into a new decade, VEAP will be advocating for changes in our cities and state that recognize the right of everyone to access healthy, nutritious food and affordable housing—including people earning low incomes or those unable to work because of age or disability. In local housing teams, city groups, and community collaboratives, count on VEAP to offer insight and perspective into the needs of the community. We thank you for your support in 2019 and we look forward to an impactful 2020.