MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been called “the hungriest summer,” as many locations for neighborhood meals have been closed. As millions of Americans are now out of hundreds of extra dollars in pandemic unemployment benefits, food banks are seeing a surge in food insecurity.

The temporary $600 a week were doled out to people who lost their jobs beginning in March, but the benefit expired last week. Now, local food banks are worried it will be even more difficult for families to put food on the table.

“It is the worst level of food insecurity we have seen since the Great Depression,” Second Harvest Heartland’s CEO Allison O’Toole said.

O’Toole says in the next week, one in eight Minnesotans, and one in five children won’t know where their next meal is coming from.

“That means families are watering down milk. Mom are skipping dinner so kids can have more. It means when schools starts online or in-person combination, kids are showing up to learn hungry,” O’Toole said.

Hunger also disproportionately affects Black, Latin American, and Indigenous families. Officials say they’re twice as likely to live with hunger compared to white families during the pandemic.

“Were talking about racism. That is a driver in the social inequalities of health,” University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Jaime Slaughter-Acey said.

Families enrolled in SNAP benefits are still able to apply for pandemic benefits, free and reduced school meals. Those benefits are also set to expire this week but could be extended.

“We need to make it OK to ask for help, and that means talking about this with our friends and neighbors. And make sure people know where to access the help they need,” O’Toole said.

If you’d like to donate to help feed families affected by hunger, click here.

Kate Raddatz

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