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

Just like any other sector where best serving the needs of its customers is the ultimate goal, the food relief sector is no exception. To support that goal, FFEN, alongside University of Minnesota Extension, as lead implementing partners of the 2022 survey, was committed to an early test drive of the survey process and content well before rolling it out to the masses: nearly 320 participating food shelves or an anticipated 9,000 individuals from across the state.

In June 2022, FFEN staff and volunteers selected five pilot sites based on unique characteristics such as geographic location, size, structure and demographics. Together with food shelf personnel and support from local Extension educators, they were able to walk through how the survey would be administered at each site, review the process and survey format as well as take another look at survey content in order to use what they learned to create the best experience possible. They gained firsthand insight into factors such as wait times and length of survey; whether or not customers preferred paper or electronic options for completion; barriers to answering questions, including wording and language; the role of offering incentives to participants; and other logistical considerations. 

With the opportunity to engage firsthand in the survey experience, administrators were able to observe what worked and what did not, and some of the findings were surprising. For example, shoppers generally preferred to take a paper survey home with them rather than taking additional time to complete it in person while at their food shelf. Also, this year’s new electronic options of using a QR code to complete the survey online or using a tablet device onsite at the food shelf were not appealing options, with participants preferring paper surveys. Surveys were still offered online during survey implementation, but worked best at food shelves that already communicated electronically with their food shelf clients. By having the chance to troubleshoot nearly every aspect of the survey before it launched, administrators were able to accommodate shoppers’ needs, meeting them where they were at with the least number of barriers to completing the survey. At the same time, participants felt valued, shared a sense of buy-in and a deeper commitment to the process making this a more thoughtful, intentional and inclusive survey than ever before.

The Minnesota  Food Shelf Surveys, which began in 2017 and takes place every two to three years, is a highly collaborative effort among food relief partners. In 2022, this process has been administered by University of Minnesota Extension and FFEN, with the survey partnership including 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 client feedback  in order to improve the food shelf experience and better meet the needs of shoppers. This year a top priority has been to capture data from a broader, more diverse participant base than ever before. 

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 for 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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