Championing the policies and programs that work to end hunger
Anti-hunger legislation and policies may be less visible than grocery pop-ups in your neighborhood, but they are just as vital in connecting those in need with food resources. That’s why Second Harvest Heartland advocates for the public programs and policies that nourish our communities and work to end hunger.
As one of the nation’s largest, most efficient and innovative hunger relief organizations, we leverage our unique position to connect community voices, issues and stories with elected officials and policymakers while mobilizing support for ending hunger.
We advocate for and deliver public hunger-fighting programs:
Policy impacts every aspect of food production, delivery systems and hunger relief programs. This means that our advocacy efforts must span the health and human services sector, agriculture industry, education system and beyond. Within that work, several hunger-fighting programs are of particular significance given their reach and effectiveness:
For every one meal we provide to community – and we provided 97 million meals in 2019 – SNAP provides nine. We work with our national partners at Feeding America to advocate for policies that will strengthen SNAP and increase benefits during economic recessions like we’re experiencing right now. That’s because SNAP is one of the most efficient and effective hunger-fighting programs out there, serving 400,000 Minnesotans each year, benefitting individuals, families, children and seniors. We also work to make SNAP easier to access and help community members complete SNAP applications and recertifications.
Despite demonstrated short- and long-term program benefits, from providing vital nutrition to bolstering local economies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to roll out plans to restrict SNAP eligibility and reduce SNAP benefits for our struggling neighbors. If proposed rules take effect, up to 40 percent of SNAP recipients, or about 210,000 Minnesotans, would see their SNAP benefits reduced, with many losing benefits entirely. When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, we also began advocating for expanded SNAP benefits to help Minnesotans in need fill their fridges during the economic downturn.
Second Harvest Heartland supports SNAP through our SNAP Outreach Team, providing application promotion, education and assistance. We also work to reduce the stigma in accessing benefits. Food banks like ours cannot fill the meals gap and end hunger without programs like SNAP.
Free and reduced-price school meals, after-school meals and the Summer Food Service Program are just a few programs serving more than 300,000 Minnesota kids. But with 1 in 5 kids in our region now facing hunger, more must be done to ensure that kids have the nutrition they need to learn, play and grow.
In addition to expanding SNAP benefits and access, we’re working in partnership with schools and districts to streamline SNAP referrals so families can more easily opt in to receive important food resources . And, we’re supporting our school and district partners through promotion of innovative school meal delivery models such as Grab N’ Go breakfast and Breakfast After the Bell, programs that increase student participation and decrease stigma by making breakfast a regular part of the school day.
We call on our Members of Congress to keep these programs strong, while making sure school nutrition directors and child nutrition partners receive the support and resources they need at state and local levels to effectively reach all kids.
These state programs fund the purchase of milk from Minnesota dairy farmers, facilitate the donation of produce from Minnesota growers, and new in 2020, support the purchase of protein from local producers. This state-supported sourcing program allows Second Harvest Heartland to distribute quality, local food at little-to-no cost to community food shelves. In the past five years, the program has made possible the distribution of 30 million pounds of produce from 55 Minnesota growers, surplus crops that would otherwise go unharvested or unsold. These are just a couple of ways the agriculture sector supports hunger relief.
We’re pushing to expand the milk grant to cover a full year’s worth of fluid milk, as well as make permanent the new funding for protein produced or packaged in Minnesota.
Through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, the USDA buys food products produced on American farms and provides it to states for distribution to food pantries and food banks, like Second Harvest Heartland, who participate in TEFAP. Second Harvest Heartland encourages Congress to maintain adequate funding for this program because it allows us to increase the amount of fresh produce, protein and dairy products available to our clients, but perishable foods come with far more expensive and logistically challenging storage and transportation requirements. This is why we also advocate for the allocation of sufficient funds to offset storage and distribution costs needed to handle government commodities.
We also support strengthening the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and state Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS), the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), several local and county-level programs that offset the costs of our innovative Food Rescue program, and many more.
Many of these federal programs are funded through two main pieces of legislation: the annual Agriculture Appropriations bill and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bill. We make visits to D.C. at least twice a year to meet with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to share how our work at Second Harvest Heartland depends on these programs and explain how these policies could be made even more effective at ensuring no one in Minnesota goes hungry.
We engage strategically and collaboratively with our hunger-fighting partners:
Alongside the state and federal hunger-relief networks, we voice our support for programs that reduce food insecurity and we speak out against policies that make it harder for our neighbors and clients to access the healthy food they need to thrive.
- We build relationships with state, local, and national lawmakers, meeting with them to explain how proposed policies and programs will affect our operations and the clients we help serve.
- We publish op-eds with a host of partner organizations from the education, non-profit, and business sectors to educate the public on critical issues.
- We update our hunger-concerned supporters on the latest news and policy updates through our social media channels and our blog.
- We send out calls to action when we need the support of our communities on important policy changes.
- We develop policies at the state and local level that will incentivize smart hunger-relief practices
- We manage and participate in diverse coalitions to push for policy changes that address barriers to hunger and help our clients.
- Minnesota’s other Feeding America food banks also engage with their local and Federal elected officials to ensure state-wide representation of the needs of the emergency food system.
- Our partner Hunger Solutions Minnesota coordinates an annual Hunger Day on the Hill at the Capitol in St. Paul. During this day of advocacy, Second Harvest Heartland supporters, volunteers, and those affected by hunger can meet with their state legislators to share why anti-hunger policy is important to them. Hunger Solutions Minnesota also contributes to activating grassroots advocacy around nutrition programs and policies.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Center for Prevention leads state-level coalition work around nutrition policy to ensure that all Minnesota kids have equitable access to the healthy foods they need to thrive.
- Youthprise, focused on increasing equity among Minnesota’s youth, also supports policies that promote access to and participation in vital nutrition programs like SNAP and school meals.
- The Minnesota School Nutrition Association is the voice of Minnesota’s school nutrition directors, who are actively involved in the implementation of school meal programs like Breakfast After the Bell and can provide expert testimony in support of our policy goals.
Many of the 1,000+ agency partners we serve also engage in advocacy around programs and policies that provide resources to the emergency food system as a whole, or investments in the specific communities they serve.
As a member of the Feeding America network of more than 200 food banks, Second Harvest Heartland relies on the Feeding America to set and shepherd federal hunger-relief policy priorities. In addition to anti-hunger programs, Feeding America works on federal tax policies that help get more food to food banks, focusing efforts on The Farm Bill, Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, and appropriations, budget and taxes.
We make progress through your commitment and action:
There’s an action each of our hunger-concerned neighbors and Second Harvest Heartland supporters can take in ending hunger through advocacy:
- Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on hunger-fighting policies, programs and calls to action
- Read up on the food resources in your area so you can advocate for neighbors in need
- Contact your elected officials to let them know that these programs are critical to your community
- Sign up to join our growing list of advocates
Join our growing list of advocates
Just as hunger-relief programs and policies are only as effective as the policymakers enacting them, our advocacy efforts are made possible and more powerful by you. By joining our growing list of hunger-fighting advocates, you’ll be kept up to date (but not too up to date!) on our priorities. We’ll invite you to educational trainings, offer volunteer opportunities, and ask for your mobilization around timely calls to action. There’s no obligation, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Contact the Second Harvest Heartland advocacy team:
Rachel Sosnowchik, Public Affairs Specialist