St. Paul, MN (April 01, 2014) — Starting this week, local nonprofits are joining forces with Solutran, a privately-held technology solutions company, to bring free and healthy food to food insecure families in the Twin Cities metro. More than 100 low income families were selected for a pilot called Healthy Savings because they expressed an interest in serving more fruits and vegetables to their families.
The Healthy Savings program empowers food insecure families to eat healthy, improve health, and save money. This approach to getting healthy foods onto the plates of low income metro families is the latest offering of the Twin Cities Hunger Initiative (TCHI), a coalition of hunger relief agencies in the Twin Cities striving to end hunger in the metro area.
“The Twin Cities Hunger Initiative and Solutran partnership is a wonderful example of cross sector collaboration making a difference in the community. With Solutran’s technology combined with their deep commitment to hunger relief, we are excited about the impact the Healthy Savings initiative is going to have on many families and individuals,” says Marcia Fink, director of Basic Needs for Greater Twin Cities United Way.
Families will receive $10 in free produce each week for 12 weeks. The families will shop with a specially designed Healthy Savings benefit card at any Cub, Rainbow, Byerly’s or Lunds store. Families will also be eligible for additional weekly savings on other specially selected healthy foods during the year.
“Solutran has long supported the work done by the fine organizations that make up the Twin Cities Hunger Initiative, and we want to join forces with them by bringing our Healthy Savings technology to support some of the food insecure households in our area,” said Carmen Nordstrand, the chief operating officer at Solutran.
Three local food shelves – Intercongregational Communities Association (ICA) in Minnetonka, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in north Minneapolis and Community Emergency Assistance Programs (CEAP) in Brooklyn Center – have selected families for this pilot project because the need for food assistance continues to rise. According to Hunger Solutions Minnesota, food shelf usage in the nine-county metro climbed to another record at 1.7 million visits in 2013.
This is nearly a 50 percent increase from pre-recession numbers. Almost half of these visits are made by children and seniors.
New medical research shows that food insecurity in local families is “a pressing public health issue”. Lack of access to healthy foods has detrimental health outcomes.
The challenge of eating healthy for low income families stems from high cost and low access. If one doesn’t live close to a store with a large, affordable selection of produce or cannot afford to purchase fresh, healthy foods, their family will likely be consuming filling, but empty calories. This leads to nutrition-related chronic diseases (diabetes, hypertension) and development issues for young children.
The USDA recently reported that healthy food such as beef; milk and produce are more expensive. The Agriculture Department expects grocery store prices to increase as much as 3.5 percent in 2014. Fruits and vegetables prices are jumping because of cold weather and disease in US crops. Citrus prices increased 3.4 percent last month, and strawberry prices are up 12 percent and experts predict the prices could go higher still this year. According to Healthy Savings partners, the high prices of these foods can make it cost prohibitive for many low income families.
Solutran is a Minneapolis-based technology company whose mission is to provide clients with innovative, reliable and responsive technology solutions. Solutran invented the technology for Healthy Savings, which is designed to improve the way America eats. Solutran is a national leader in retail and grocery payments, consumer incentive payments and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) payments. For more information visit www.Solutran.com, www.healthysavings.net or call 888-SOLUTRAN (888-765-8872).
The Twin Cites Hunger Initiative (TCHI) was convened in 2006 by Greater Twin Cities United Way. Over the past six years, the TCHI has created a forum for leaders of hunger relief organizations to work together to end hunger and to strengthen the efforts of all by creating opportunities for collaboration and connection. The key focus of all TCHI projects is collaboration and the belief that more can be accomplished when organizations learn and plan together. The three overall goals of the TCHI are: 1) Increase the quantity and quality of food available for distribution in the nine county emergency food systems 2) Increase the capacity of hunger organizations to effectively serve their clients. 3) Increase participation of eligible people in federal nutrition programs. Since 2007, the emergency food system in the metro has increased food choice and volume by 50 percent and Supplement Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) enrollment by 50 percent.
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