Minnesota Food Shelves Prepare for Potential Government Shutdown Impact

by Ella

Minnesota and food shelves across the nation are gearing up for the potential ramifications of a federal government shutdown, particularly one that could endure for an extended period.

Second Harvest Heartland, situated in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, ranks among the country’s largest food banks. CEO Allison O’Toole expressed concern that the hunger relief network is already grappling with the formidable task of meeting historic demand for its services and anticipates aiding even more individuals should a federal government shutdown materialize.


O’Toole emphasized the importance of programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) which could run out of funding during an extended shutdown. She stated, “You know, we’re talking about moms and babies and little kids and moms to be. This benefit provides fruits and veggies and peanut butter and cereal formula, the basic staples we need to help families thrive.”


Food banks, which have consistently sought increased support since the onset of the pandemic, now face the challenge of intensifying outreach efforts to attract volunteers and maintain food shelves stocked adequately.


O’Toole acknowledged the difficulties ahead and stressed the importance of community involvement, stating, “It is really going to be hard… If you have time to volunteer at a food shelter at Second Harvest Heartland, we welcome you. If you have the financial resources to give a donation, we certainly welcome that too to your local food shelf or Second Harvest. Everyone can help. I think food shelves would also welcome food donations.”


Kelsey Dooley, Executive Director of the Two Harbors Area Food Shelf on the North Shore of Lake Superior, is cautiously awaiting the implications of a potential shutdown. She explained, “I don’t know how much specifically we will be affected by the shutdown. I have heard from some of our clients that they’re worried about it.”

Dooley’s food shelf serves approximately 200 families, and demand has surged, increasing by at least 70% compared to the same period last year. Rising operating costs due to food price hikes have presented additional challenges.

Governor Tim Walz pledged his administration’s efforts to address the heightened demand for food in the event of a shutdown. His team is examining nutrition programs, long-term care, and other federally funded areas.

In Duluth, the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank serves around 40 smaller food shelves. Ashley Hall, who works at the food bank, expressed her apprehension about the looming shutdown, acknowledging the history of solidarity in northern Minnesota communities. Hall said, “All the counties in northern Minnesota are so great at supporting one another that when this happens, they start supporting monetarily, people come out and volunteer a little bit more than they typically do. It brings people together… So I feel like that is a little bit of hope that all of us have, that if this happens, people will step up like they have in the past.”

As Minnesota prepares for the potential impact of a government shutdown, communities, and organizations are actively seeking ways to ensure that vulnerable populations continue to receive vital food assistance.



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