MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —  Before COVID-19 put a serious crimp in the state’s economy, one in 11 Minnesota families couldn’t afford enough to eat. After three months of living in a pandemic, that number is a staggering one in eight.

“We are in the biggest economic and public health crisis of our time,” says Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.

Inside its sprawling new food distribution warehouse, the demand for food is surging. O’Toole says food pantries all across the state can expect to see a 65% increase in families in need.

“These are levels we have not seen since the Great Depression,” adds O’Toole. “And our call to action is we must act now and we need this community to continue to step up with us to meet the need.”

In responding to the serious financial strains brought on by the pandemic, Minnesota has expanded SNAP benefits to help assure school children don’t go hungry this summer.

Two-hundred-thousand Minnesotans have applied for those added benefits. However, another 150,000 are eligible for the help but must file for the assistance by June 30.

RELATED: DHS: 150,000 More Families May Be Eligible For Additional SNAP Food Benefits; Deadline Is June 30

Stories of families watering down milk to make it last are heartbreaking.

“We just wish people would come to us before the situation is that dire,” explains Virginia Merritt, executive director of southeast Minnesota’s Channel One Food Bank.

Food pantries across the state expect the demand to spike over the next six months, as pandemic financial support begins to dwindle while unemployment remains high.

“When we run these mobile pantries we’ll pull up and there are already 200 cars waiting in a very small town,” added Merritt.

It’s expected it will cost an extra $21-million to purchase enough food to satisfy Minnesota’s newly hungry through year’s end.

To contribute financial help to Second Harvest Heartland click here.

Bill Hudson

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