Hunger relief sector shares perspectives on 2022 Minnesota Food Shelf Survey
For those working in the hunger relief sector, an invitation to a data party might have been the most anticipated of the last year. Taking part in one of four virtual gatherings or data parties in December provided more than 150 stakeholders in all aspects of hunger relief and food access to debrief and interpret preliminary survey data, and share initial feedback and perspectives obtained from the 2022 Minnesota Food Shelf Survey. Through breakout discussions, participants were able to gain better context around the survey and consider how best to present the data findings as well as their hopes for the next phase of the reporting process.
Launched in 2017, the biennial Minnesota Food Shelf Survey is unique in the national hunger relief sector as its goal is to gather pertinent data about food shelves, their users and shopping behaviors at a statewide level—all critical to the operation of Minnesota food shelves. The 2022 survey, just the third of its kind in our state, was devised as a tool to help inform the work of regional and local food shelves, food banks and others who care about food access across Minnesota.
Beginning early in 2022, long before its rollout in the fall, the survey was developed and refined by a team led by the University of Minnesota Extension and FFEN, informed through hunger relief partners serving on either a Survey Work Group or an Advisory Council. It was then piloted by five local food shelves to ensure that questions and processes were sound and seamless. In July and August , survey distribution began to food shelf clients and managers with nearly 400 food shelf sites invited to participate.The manager’s version of the survey included questions specific to their managerial role. This was the first time participants were offered an online option for completing the survey. Data analysis began in late fall 2022 and the final report will be available in early 2023.
Though the complete results are yet to be released, the 2022 surveys have the largest sample size so far with nearly 7,000 client voices represented and over 250 food shelf managers responding. Preliminary data was shared at the December data parties covering a range of topics from shopper demographics and most important shopping experiences to food availability, most important foods, non-food items needed, cultural awareness and diversity, barriers to accessibility, and many more. In addition, clients were encouraged to provide qualitative feedback as part of their survey completion, and though that feedback was overwhelmingly positive, they also offered important suggestions for improvement in their local food shelf operations. Each food shelf with at least 10 client survey responses will receive its own unique data to help inform their work into the future. A full report with statewide aggregate data also will be released in early 2023.
Before the final farewells, participants were asked to share what surprised and excited them most about the survey findings. The consensus was the expression of pride and positivity: that despite unique challenges since the last survey in 2019—the global COVID pandemic, food sourcing and supply chain frustrations, and other significant challenges—the most consistent message emerging from the survey was one of gratitude. For the work of food shelf managers, staff and volunteers. For the key role local food shelves play in supporting and stabilizing our communities. And for the positive impact, connection, and well-being that food shelves can bring to those living with food insecurity.
For more information on the 2022 MN Food Shelf Client Survey, visit https://www.supershelfmn.org/minnesota-statewide-survey.
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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.