As the summer of 2022 wound down, food shelves across the state were busy at work distributing the Minnesota Statewide Food Shelf Survey. 

With a goal of engaging 320 food shelf sites or roughly 9,000 individuals in this year’s survey, data collection was a daunting task in itself. But the lead-up to the survey is perhaps the bigger story. This year, lead implementing organizations FFEN and the University of Minnesota Extension, were focused on engagement as a means to building a better survey. They convened two stakeholder engagement sessions taking place in February and March of 2022 to learn directly from the lived experience of those facing food insecurity as well as leaders in the hunger relief sector and broader food access efforts, which helped to shape the direction of this year’s survey. The engagement events, along with working groups made up of food banks, food shelves, hunger relief partners and clients, allowed participation from a range of stakeholders, while a Statewide Advisory Council has helped support the survey effort throughout the process.

More than 50 individuals joined these first-of-their-kind facilitated discussions to analyze the most impactful data from the 2019 survey. In addition to reviewing the top five foods and top five valued shopper experiences highlighted in the last survey, they shared feedback about content, considering the relevance or usefulness of survey questions. They also offered unique insights into food access, consistency of available foods, and shopper experience with food shelves across the state. Most importantly, bringing these new voices to the table was instrumental to modifying the content and question development for this year’s survey, broadening the discussion and therefore building a more thoughtful, intentional and inclusive survey than ever before.

The Minnesota Food Shelf Survey, which takes place every two to three years since 2017, is a highly collaborative effort among hunger relief partners. This iteration is being administered by the University of Minnesota Extension alongside FFEN and the survey partnership includes the Department of Human Services (DHS), Hunger Solutions Minnesota and SuperShelf, with funding this year by SNAP-Ed. Its goal is to gather data from food shelf shoppers and managers around the state on key trends and use habits in order to improve the food shelf experience and better meet the needs of shoppers. With nearly 200,000 people facing food insecurity in our state, the importance of the survey is clear. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

By participating in this year’s survey, not only will food shelves receive an individualized Food Shelf Report with confidential and anonymous feedback from their clients, but also they will be taking part in a unique opportunity to inform broader hunger relief priorities and investments. And investing in the process by creating the most inclusive survey possible is critical to sustaining the work of food shelves in our state into the future.

For more information on the 2022 MN Food Shelf Client Survey, visit

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact the MN Food Help Line at 1-888-711-1151. This resource was funded in part by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP – with funds received from and through the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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