Wedge Cap

In Minnesota, hunger can be hard to recognize.
Besides the fact that we spend most of the year
bundled up in bulky winter wear, hunger is just
not a visible problem here in the way we,ve been
programmed to think about it. Here, it doesn,t
mean children with bloated bellies and hollow
faces dying on the streets. Instead, it shows up
in other, less-dramatic ways; like skipping a few
meals a week or buying cheap, less-nutritious
food to get enough calories or having to seek
extra help at food shelters to supplement
shortfalling incomes.

The U.S. government doesn’t
measure hunger. Instead,
it measures food insecurity
by conducting an annual random
survey about people’s ability to put
food on the table. Food insecurity
reports are the closest thing we
have to an official hunger count in
this country.

The latest report shows that 10.6
percent of Minnesota households
are food insecure, and that 4.8
percent fall in a more severe
category called “very low food
security,” which means they have to
skip meals due to insufficient funds.
Minnesota is doing better than
the national average, but thestate,s numbers
seem stuck at an all-time high, where they’ve
been for several years now after
rising sharply during the recession
and having only slightly leveled off
since then.

In Hennepin County, one in 10
individuals currently receive
nutritional assistance through
SNAP (food stamps), and even
more than that are eligible for
help. The majority of those
that qualify are families with
young children and adults with
disabilities. According to Jill
Martinez of Hunger Solutions
Minnesota, the main reason people
wind up needing assistance is underemployment.
She says, “Even
after the jobs recovery, many
families are still struggling to get
by on wages that don’t make ends
meet.”

This is troubling for more than just
the obvious, immediate reasons.
A growing body of research finds
that hunger can have long-lasting
impacts. Hungry children have
been shown to have more trouble
learning and are more likely to
repeat a grade at school. Children
living in food-insecure homes are
also more likely to have behavioral
problems, developmental delays
and more likely to be hospitalized
due to illness.

So what is being done about it?
The emergency food system is one
way for people to find help. Food
banks, food shelves and hot meal
programs are the main providers
of emergency food. Last year
alone, these programs distributed
about 100 million pounds of food
to hungry Minnesotans. Schools
also play an essential role, with federally
funded lunch for low-income kids, a
growing breakfast program and
a summer food program. Last year, after
reports came out that some
school districts were denying hot
lunches to kids who couldn,t pay,
the Minnesota State Legislature
approved spending $3.5 million in
state funds to ensure that no child
has to go hungry at school.

But even with all these safety nets,
hungry families still struggle
to find healthy, nutritious,
and culturally relevant food
they can afford. National food
prices are on the rise, with annual
inflation rates for grocery store
items increasing by twice the
historical average from 2013 to
2014. The USDA’s Consumer
Price Index predicts that this
will improve in 2015, with the
exception of beef, eggs and
fresh fruit. Droughts in California
and more severe weather all
over the world are contributing
to the increase. But the real
fact of the matter is that cheap
food, which has been artificially
deflated by subsidies from the U.S.
government, comes with hidden
costs, like worker exploitation,
environmental degradation and
health issues, including obesity and
diabetes. And real food, like
whole grains and fruits and
vegetables that are not subsidized, are expensive
by comparison.

Part of our commitment to a local,
sustainable food system entails
ensuring that fair prices get paid to
our farmers, so that they can make
a living while making our lives
better with the food they grow.
That,s where your money goes
when you shop at
the Wedge.
But there’s also
a reason we’re
the Wedge
Community Coop.
We wouldn,t be here without
our local community, and we,re
committed to providing access to
healthful food for all, not just those
who can pay a premium for it.
Which is why we’re launching the
Co-op Affordability Project (CAP).

Launching in late spring, CAP
offers a new route to ownership by
providing a 10% discount to every
purchase made
and reduces the
$80 up front stock
payment to just
$10. After that,
the remaining
stock purchase of
$70 will come out
of the individual’s
annual patronage
refund checks until it is paid off.
Anyone who is enrolled in SNAP,
WIC (which will be returning to
our store in late spring after a
many-year hiatus), SSDI, Section
8 Housing or Refugee Cash
Assistance will be eligible for CAP.

To provide further assistance, we’ll
be putting together a set of useful
resources to guide customers
with limited budgets to make the
most of their food dollars. We’ll
be starting a recipe program with
meals designed to be under $2
per serving and a shopping guide
with insider tips from staff about
making the co-op work for you and
your family.

Eating healthfully can be a real
challenge, one that’s even harder
when money is tight. It is our hope
that CAP will help make the Wedge
a more accessible place for all the
members of our community. And
we hope that in our own small way
we can help level the playing field
and create increased opportunities
for wholesome eating for all.

More information will be
available in the coming months.
If you have questions about CAP,
please email cap@wedge.coop.

And if you’re looking to do
your part to fight hunger in
Minneapolis, an easy way to
do that is to round up at the
register in the month of March,
when donations will go to MN

Wondering if you qualify?

Contact these organizations to find out if you can be enrolled in
WIC, SNAP, SSDI, Refugee Cash Assistance or Section 8 housing.

Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota: Bridge to Benefits is an
online screening tool to see if you are eligible for public work
support programs: www.bridgetobenefits.org

Hunger Solutions: The Minnesota Food Helpline is a way to learn
about what food support resources are available for you:
www.hungersolutions.org/minnesota-food-helpline

Minnesota Department of Human Services: The place to learn
about what support programs exist in Minnesota. Check out
mn.gov/dhs and look under “People We Serve”.