By Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, whose family relied on food shelves and public programs, was a fitting ambassador to announce $3.3 million in new spending over the next two years to fund a prepared meals grant program.
“This means a lot to me. It means a lot to our family and I know it means so much to Minnesotans across the state,” she said.
The prepared meals are for Minnesotans experiencing food insecurity who have trouble cooking meals due to lack of access to a kitchen or because they have a disability.
“It’s essential that we have programs that break down all the barriers to food insecurity, and for so many people who are facing hunger, receiving food only solves part of the problem,” Flanagan said. “That’s why supporting prepared meals is an essential part of the puzzle to benefit individuals and families with inconsistent access to kitchens.”
The $3.3 million grant, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz, is for fiscal years 2024-2025. Nonprofits and tribal nations are eligible to apply for the funds, and they must have a history of providing and distributing prepared meals that are customized to the people they serve depending on cultural, religious and dietary needs.
Nikki Farago, deputy commissioner at the Department of Human Services, said the agency is unsure how many organizations will receive grants from the program; the goal is to begin awarding funds later this year.
Kitchen Coalition, a program of the nonprofit Second Harvest Heartland, provides funding to local restaurants and businesses to make the prepared meals.
“We invest in local businesses to make our meals because we want meals that are made by community for community that are both nutritionally balanced and culturally affirming, “ said Robin Manthe, managing director of Kitchen Coalition. “This makes a difference for our neighbors.”
Flanagan and the nonprofit leaders gathered at the restaurant Cheng Heng in St. Paul — one Kitchen Coalition’s local meal distributors.
Manthe said Kitchen Coalition estimates it has distributed over 4 million meals since its inception in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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