Snapshot of Our Advocacy Initiatives
Hunger relief requires commitment, resources and action on all fronts.
This work means that we must do everything we can to address hunger at its core, from every direction. That’s why we have a position in our organization completely dedicated to advocacy for public policy and education.
“I tie it back to our mission—our ability to achieve our mission is threatened by potential cuts to programs that are really important to our clients,” Director of Advocacy Marcus Schmit said. “We’d be doing a disservice to the people who support us if we weren’t active in public policy.”
Marcus spends much of his time at the state Capitol, meeting with legislators and telling them about the one in 10 Minnesotans who will go to bed hungry tonight.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to endorse candidates or donate to campaigns,” Marcus said. “It’s bigger than us. We should take some positions on issues on policy that affects our clients …and our [food shelf] partners.”
To give some insight about what that means concretely, Marcus broke it down by levels of government, and our focus in each level.
Retail Food Rescue Support—Our fleet of Retail Food Rescue drivers ‘rescue’ thousands of pounds of produce, dairy, meat, bakery and grocery items from nearly 500 retail partners. “It’s a win-win-win,” Marcus said. “You’re diverting food from going into landfills.” This food goes to people who need it, addressing both environmental and hunger concerns.
Milk Grant—Each year, we receive the resources necessary to purchase surplus milk we then distribute. The milk grant makes it possible for food shelves and food pantries to offer milk at all, as it’s something our partners have a hard time keeping on the shelves. “It’s really important for kids and seniors especially to have those nutrients,” Marcus added.
Farm to Food Shelf—On May 30, Governor Dayton signed into law legislation that will provide funding for the Farm to Food Shelf, a program that helps offset Minnesota growers’ costs associated with harvesting and packaging produce that would otherwise go unharvested or discarded. This donated produce is then efficiently distributed to partner food shelves, which get these fresh fruits and vegetables to families in need.
SNAP and Health Care—“We’re playing defense at the federal level,” Marcus said. Programs like SNAP and even programs not directly related to hunger relief like Medicaid have a large impact on our clients, which means we are prioritizing them in Washington.
“It’s part of my focus to think big picture for our clients,” Marcus said. “All these things are intertwined. At the end of the day, if our mission is to end hunger, we need to think beyond the programs we have in place right now.”
When Marcus is meeting with legislators and telling the stories of the people we serve, he is especially driven by one thing, something he didn’t expect when taking on this role. “The person that I’ve thought of the most is my kid.”
As a new father, Marcus cannot imagine being hungry and raising a son. “I just want to be able to provide for my son everything that he needs. I think everyone should have that opportunity. I think of how sad it must be to have to choose between having enough food to feed your children and medical care that you need. I’ve only been here [at Second Harvest Heartland] a few months, but I have thought about this work through the lens of being a dad more than anything else.”
Visit our advocacy page to learn more about our stance on the policy that helps keep our neighbors afloat!