Food insecurity has been a growing problem for many Minnesota families in recent years but with the economic fallout from the pandemic, the crisis is now greater than ever.

According to a report from 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was expected to create a hunger crisis affecting over 700,000 Minnesotans in a situation “reportedly not seen since the Great Depression.” Of that number, over 100,000 are children. That’s in addition to the more than 160,000 children already facing food insecurity prior to the pandemic.

MATTER‘s dedicated community partners are helping many of these families navigate the crisis. They rely upon MATTER’s healthy food initiatives to help address the urgent food needs these families are facing.

Partners like The Link, a Minneapolis-based organization that works with youth and young families to overcome the impacts of poverty and social injustice, use our snack packs in their truancy prevention program, School Matters. Because many of the students come from homes facing food insecurity, School Matters’ case managers consider the snack packs an essential component of their work with students. As Truancy Program Manager, Caalynn Schiro, says, “You can’t focus on school when you’re hungry.”

Besides keeping their case managers well stocked with snack packs, they also put them in their food pantry closet and include them in food deliveries to their families. Caalynn described one of their families who regularly receives snack packs from the program.

“She’s a single mom with two boys, elementary and middle school age, who was working full time until the pandemic hit and she lost her job. Her boys are now home all the time and she’s needing to feed them more because they’re not in school. But her income has stopped, so putting food on the table has been a huge, huge struggle for her. Their case manager has been doing weekly drop-offs of food for them and including MATTER snack packs. They’re so perfect for the boys to be able to have a quick bite of energy in their day that doesn’t require mom to turn on the oven or prepare. This mom, so many times, has thanked us and everyone who is involved in helping her feed her children.”

Providing 1,000 of these essential snack packs for The Link was MATTER corporate partner, JPMorgan Chase. Having held several packing events with their employees in the past, this year’s event required a bit of re-imagining to keep it COVID-safe. Using the MATTERbox Volunteer Kits, employees assembled the snack packs individually from their homes. According to Laura Shaw, Co-Chair of their Minnesota Volunteer Leadership Group, being able to assemble the snack packs with family members made the experience extra special.

“While we could not gather in person, this event provided a new opportunity to share the experience with our families at home, and still work collaboratively for the greater cause. Due to this unique situation, it provided a conduit to open a dialogue with teammates and family members on why we team with MATTER for these events, which made the experience even more meaningful for everyone.”

For Caalynn, the support from JPMorgan Chase is invaluable. ” I just really want you to know that these snack packs go a long way. The case managers love having them to provide to the youth, and the families are so appreciative to have the resources to help feed their children.”

It’s for these families, and for the tens of thousands throughout Minnesota that are struggling to put food on the table, and ideally healthy food, that MATTER partners with generous companies like JPMorgan Chase.

It’s also why we are gearing up for our Virtual MATTERbox Madness event on March 22 that will kick-off our campaign to provide 50,000 meals of healthy food for children this summer. Look for stories and updates in the coming weeks as MATTER and our partners work to give Minnesota’s children a summer free from hunger.