The Nutritious Food Coalition is a public-private partnership to raise awareness and increase participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and provide guidance on means of better serving Minnesotans in need of healthy food. The coalition is comprised of more than 50 experts from a range of organizations.
The coalition meets quarterly to address food access issues, increase participation in SNAP, identify barriers and areas for expansion, and develop a coordinated outreach effort to ensure all Minnesotans who are eligible for the program have an opportunity to apply for it.
Coalition goals include:
• Identify barriers and means of increasing food access
• Provide guidance on ways to better serve Minnesotans in need of healthy food, particularly seniors
• Raise awareness about SNAP
• Educate people on eating nutritiously and cost effectively
• Increase participation in the SNAP program.
The coalition will measure the success of these efforts by an increase in participation among program-eligible Minnesotans.
"More than 500,000 Minnesotans access food support benefits monthly," said Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who was instrumental in launching the Nutritious Food Coalition in 2012.
"Yet, many more, particularly seniors, are eligible for the program.The guidance, work and support of this coalition will encourage more Minnesotans to take advantage of SNAP so they can purchase the nutritious food they need to maintain healthy lifestyles."
Outreach agencies share information about the nutrition benefits, explain program processes and assist with applications to help those eligible make informed decisions.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon
Statewide outreach includes:
• More than 20 agencies, which are Food and Nutrition Service grant recipients and are part of Minnesota’s formal state outreach plan.
• Staff recruitment of local partners to conduct outreach.
• Coordination among the Minnesota Department of Human Services and counties to provide the “infrastructure” for material updates, supplies, training and communications.
• Free nutrition education materials and classes (SNAP-Education) through the University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Chippewa Tribe to help SNAP participants make good purchasing choices and stretch their food dollars.
Unemployed and underemployed Minnesotans now have a little more help purchasing healthy food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended its timeline to allow able-bodied adults without dependents an exemption from work provisions until the end of the federal fiscal year, September 2013, enabling them to access food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The waiver was first made available to states in January 2009. Minnesota is one of 46 qualifying states or geographic areas receiving the waiver now. Able-bodied Minnesotans are encouraged to voluntarily use SNAP employment and training services until they can find sustainable work. More information on SNAP is available on the DHS website.
Anoka County Human Services was selected by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services to receive a Hunger Champions Award for efforts to ease and expedite the application process, improve public awareness, reach underserved groups and educate SNAP participants about health eating. The award was presented by Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson at the April 10 meeting of the Nutritious Food Coalition meeting.
An electronic "Dashboard" helps Minnesotans know what they are getting from the programs they pay for, including the use of SNAP by eligible seniors.
Help is available through the Minnesota Food Helpline at 1-888-711-1151.
A fact sheet, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps people with low incomes buy food, is available on the DHS website.
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