Stigma, pride feeding food insecurity problem in Minnesota

Food insecurity may sound like a strange term but it’s a serious national issue. In fact, an estimated 2 in 10 Minnesota families face the problem largely because it’s rooted in stigma and shame.

You may even associate being hungry with living below the poverty line but that assumption alone proves the very stigma food insecurity stems from. This largely overlooked issue has more to do with access than anything else.

To put the issue in perspective, one Minneapolis policeman came face-to-face with an 88-year-old Edina man facing food insecurity and fortunately the officer tackled it head on.

“He rear ended another vehicle at the stop sign, stop light. It was an accident,” Fahey said referring to the crash at the intersection of 50th Street and Minnehaha Parkway.

“We ended up towing his vehicle. So we had to give him a ride home.”

In the process, Fahey made a sad discovery.

“Once we got to his house we found out he didn't have food in his cupboard and nothing in his refrigerator.”

Officer Fahey then went to the store, buy food for the man, along with light bulbs, because the lights in his house weren’t working. KEEP READING

In Minnesota the man’s story is not unique. 20 percent of Minnesotans are in need of food and simply don't speak up.

“People are embarrassed to say, 'I'm hungry, can you help?'”

Grant Boelter, communications manager with Metro Meals on Wheels, confirms the issue doesn't only hurt the poor. 

“A lot of times what we hear is if I want meals I feel like I'm taking it away from someone who's more deserving and that's just not true. We have the capacity to serve more people,” Boelter said.

The stigma is also a hurdle for other organizations who reach out to the aging.

“It becomes a pride thing,” said Nancy Utoft, executive director of Senior Services Consortium of Ramsey County. “If you can’t get out you’re isolated. A lot of people we don’t realize their kids may be living in other parts of the country, or their friends have passed away.”

The consortium offers meals,  transportation, caregiver support and other services for seniors -- resources they want to make sure are utilized by those who need them.

“When you're in your 80s you can't call your buddy and say can you go shop for me. Your buddy is not driving either!”  exclaimed world-renowned chef Andrew Zimmern who’s also working hard to tackle the issue of food insecurity.

Zimmern spent his Monday delivering meals to the elderly in Minnesota.

In a post on the Meals on Wheels Facebook page he affirmed what officer Fahey encountered people in need who are neither impoverished, addicts nor are they criminals.

The stigma's blinding influence is what Zimmern considers a true violation.

“How is it that we have hungry people in Minnesota? It's criminal I don't understand it.”

Here is information about programs that can help the food insecure:

Right At Home

Meals on Wheels

Store to Door

Senior Services Consortium of Ramsey County