ST. PAUL, Minn. — An event in Maplewood on Saturday will offer help for families having trouble making ends meet.
The event, which is called Project Family Connect and is now in its third year, is a one-stop spot where families can sign up for food stamps, housing aid or medical assistance. They can also get free dental screenings and help with resumes.
Jennifer Terry, a third grade teacher at Skyview Elementary in Oakdale, started the event when she saw students in her classroom were struggling with basic needs. She said families need assistance to stop a downward slide.
"They don't know that, one, that there's help out there. And two, that they even qualify. They feel like they're lost and don't know what to do," Terry said. "So I feel like until we connect them with resources that improvement can't happen, because they're struggling day by day just to exist."
Families get more than pamphlets, she said — they get signed up for help.
"You can get all the Ramsey County services, from energy to food to medical assistance," Terry said. "We have nurses doing vision checks and hearing screenings. We have people coming and doing haircuts for families. You name it. Anything that a family in need would need access to is there."
Project Family Connect is aimed at families in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district. It is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Woodland Hills Community Church in Maplewood.
Terry expected more than 600 people to attend.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A new application will make it easier for senior citizens to apply for food stamps.
Only about half of eligible seniors are signed up for food stamps, compared with about 65 percent of eligible Minnesotans overall.
State officials and nonprofit groups have been trying to persuade more older people to sign up through ad campaigns and outreach. The state has launched a one-page application for Minnesotans age 60 and older.
It's beneficial for everyone if senior citizens get the help they need, said Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.
"Seniors that are able to afford healthy, nutritious food, they're going to be healthier," Jesson said. "They're going to be able to live in their homes and their communities longer. Too many seniors still are having to choose between paying for groceries and paying for prescriptions. We want to stop that."
Jesson added: "We have too many of our senior citizens who are eligible to get help, dollars to buy groceries at the end of those months that are tough, and they're not accessing the program. So this will make it easier for them to be able to get that help."
Most Minnesotans will still need to use the 10-page application, which allows people to apply for multiple assistance programs at once. That application will be streamlined in the coming years, Jesson said.
Food stamps are officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A statewide coalition to fight hunger got a boost from Golden Valley-based General Mills, which pledged $1 million to Hunger-Free Minnesota.
The pledge comes on top of a previous $1 million contribution from the company. Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills, said he has seen good work in getting more donations into food shelves and increasing enrollment in food stamps.
Hunger-Free Minnesota is a group of nonprofits and corporations. The coalition says low-income Minnesotans miss 100 million meals every year and aims to close what it calls the "meal gap."
"We're just encouraged by the progress that we've seen," Powell said. "We now have, I think, very impressive tools that have been developed to help us target better, really, where is the hunger, community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood."
Hunger-Free Minnesota also today announced 20 recipients of nearly $400,000 in grants. They include the Minneapolis Public Schools and a hospital food shelf program.
The Minneapolis Public Schools plans to expand its breakfast in the classroom program with the $13,000 grant. In order to better serve low-income students the district will pilot breakfast in the classroom at 13 additional schools, said Bertrand Weber, nutrition director at the Minneapolis Public Schools.
"When we provide breakfast in the cafeteria, depending on the bus schedule and how the schedule of the school is, we're finding the kids have to rush through to get their breakfast," Weber said. "A lot of times they don't have time to eat it. They have to throw it away because they can't finish it."
Hunger-Free Minnesota also gave $50,000 to Hennepin County Medical Center to expand its hospital food shelf program to neighborhood clinics. The food shelf program...Continue Reading
ST. PAUL, Minn. — In school lunchrooms across the state, more kids are in need of a free meal.
New data from the Minnesota Department of Education show the number of students on free or reduced-price lunch rose 3.8 percent over last year. There are now more than 320,000 students on the program, or 38.3 percent of children in Minnesota's public schools. That's below the national rate of 54 percent, and the increases have slowed after steep jumps during the recession.
That growth comes despite signs that the economy is improving as more people are finding jobs and housing sales are rebounding. Given that improvement, analysts don't know exactly why more kids are in line for free lunch.
But the need for meals is clear across Minnesota.
At Adams Elementary in Coon Rapids, for example, nearly 63 percent of the students receive assistance, up from 58 percent last year. School social worker Amy Carroll said many families in her school are struggling.
"We have more and more kids coming and saying, 'You know, we need some food for the night or the weekend,'" Carroll said, "actually telling us, because at the elementary age they're not shy to tell us, 'You know, we don't have any food at home.' "
The rising enrollment in free or reduced-price lunch has Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius concerned about the level of poverty in schools.
"When you get to this kind of level, when you have 42.5 percent of...Continue Reading
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A top federal nutrition official says food assistance programs should not only fight hunger, but also promote healthy eating.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon spoke Monday at the University of Minnesota during a two-day visit to the state. Concannon's agency oversees many federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
Concannon said increasingly those programs need to target both hunger and obesity.
"We have the dual existence in this country — it seems like a paradox — of both food insecurity and/or hunger, and obesity," said Concannon. "And that's where the more we can systematically provide reliable access to healthy foods, for children for example, it'll pay off marvelously for the country."
In his speech to public health leaders, school nutrition directors and hunger relief advocates, Concannon said federal nutrition programs help millions of Americans eat healthier. He said the growth of those programs in recent years is primarily a result of the poor economy.
"We are living through a period of time in our country in which these federal nutrition programs have never been more important than they are now, short of the Great Depression of the last century when these programs weren't available," said Concannon. "And that catches some people by surprise, because I don't think they realize that we have some 46 million Americans now under the federal poverty level."
A record number of Minnesotans — more than 530,000 — now receive food stamps. More than a third of the state's public school students receive free or reduced-price lunch.
Concannon met with Twin Cities...Continue Reading