Hunger and food access are critical issues in our community and region. A recent study conducted by the Great Plains Food Bank found that 81% of adults on food assistance in Cass and Clay Counties are food insecure, and pointed to the lack of transportation as a primary reason. Many rural grocery stores throughout northwest Minnesota face an uncertain future, or have already gone out of business. These issues disproportionately affect people of color, tribal nations, new Americans and other systematically disenfranchised groups.

For these reasons and more I want to thank Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, for his co-sponsorship of a bipartisan bill in the Minnesota Legislature to increase funding for the Minnesota Good Food Access Fund. The fund was created in 2016 to provide grants, loans and technical assistance to support community-based solutions to increase access to nutritious and affordable foods. The fund supports investments in grocery stores, mobile markets, farmers’ markets, fresh food refrigeration, and other infrastructure that increases the ability of communities and business owners to provide fresh food at a reasonable cost.

The Good Food Access Fund is very popular in Minnesota, so popular that the dollars always fall far short of the demand. The legislation Eken cosponsored will increase appropriations for the fund, which will be welcomed by Minnesota residents, farmers and the business community. As a member of the Minnesota Senate’s Agriculture Committee, which will decide the fate of the legislation, he will also play in important role in moving the legislation forward.

Please join me in thanking Eken for his efforts to help families who are hungry, grocery store owners who are worried about the future of their business, and farmers who are seeking new markets for their products.

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