MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Wednesday announced a $12 million effort to combat hunger in Minnesota in the wake of COVID-19.

The funding will support approximately 300 food shelves and all seven food banks across the state.

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“No Minnesotan should go to bed hungry or be forced to learn on an empty stomach,” said Governor Walz. “I want to thank our partners who have done incredible work to fight hunger in Minnesota, and the food shelves and food banks that have stepped up to serve families across the state throughout this pandemic.”

Since the pandemic began, approximately 300,000 Minnesotans have visited food shelves each month — roughly representing a 30% increase over typical visits.

Officials say food banks are distributing approximately 2.4 million pounds of food per week — a 20-40% increase since 2019.

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The $12 million in emergency support for food shelves, food banks and other food efforts across Minnesota will help meet this unprecedented demand, state leaders say.

“Food shelves and banks across the state have stepped up to meet the increased food needs of Minnesotans,” Flanagan said. “This support will make sure that children and families, seniors, people experiencing homelessness, Native communities, communities of color, and all Minnesotans who need a bit of relief can put food on the table during these challenging months.”

The funding, made possible by the CARES Act, was proposed by the governor and has now been approved by the Legislative Advisory Commission.

It is one of many efforts by the state to ensure access to food.

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Minnesotans can fill out a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) application online. To learn more click here.