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Hunger Solutions leader worries about federal funds

Humans get a laugh as a turkey dubbed "Stop the Badgers" looks around, spotting what could be his frozen future, during a Thanksgiving week ceremony on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. From left are Colleen Moriarty of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, Gov. Mark Dayton (who named the turkey) and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)1 / 3
A tom turkey calms down as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton strokes him Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, to open Thanksgiving week. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)2 / 3
Turkey farmer Robert Orsten of Willmar helps Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith put a turkey back in its pen Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at the end of a ceremony launching Thanksgiving week. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)3 / 3

ST. PAUL—Turkey talk turned thoughtful Monday, Nov. 21, as a hunger fighter said she worries about feeding Minnesotans.

Colleen Moriarty of Hunger Solutions Minnesota said the number of people in the state using food shelves has reached an all-time high, and now she is concerned about discussion in Washington to remove funding from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

"I am very worried," she said during the governor's office annual ceremony denoting Thanksgiving week and honoring the state's 450 turkey farmers.

The federal government is the largest funding source for programs that reduce hunger, she said. "Without those resources, the backbone of the emergency food system ... would be gone."

While many Republicans have been critical of the $70 billion food stamp program, president-elect Donald Trump has not specifically said what he would do with it.

Moriarty said the expectation was that once the recession ended years ago that visits to food shelves that provide food for the poor would fall. "We have not seen food shelf use decline like we thought that it would."

Gov. Mark Dayton said that while he is aware of talk of cutting federal hunger aid, "it is too early to make firm predictions about what, if anything, is going on in Washington."

He said he will deliver his budget proposal in January based on a Dec. 2 state budget report and make adjustments as needed if Congress and Trump make changes that affect Minnesota.

The federal government sent Minnesota nearly $48.5 million for food stamps in September alone.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association donated $9,000 to Hunger Solutions on Monday, as Dayton hosted tribute to the state's turkey industry. The 46 million birds produced in the state make it No. 1 in the country.

The money will be used to buy turkey products for needy Minnesota families' Thanksgiving meals, said President Robert Orsten of Willmar, president of the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council.

Hunger Solutions says many food shelves with the biggest jumps in usage are scattered around greater Minnesota.

The poultry industry could help some Minnesotans afford to buy food. Steve Olson, who represents Minnesota poultry producers, said the state's turkey industry has openings around greater Minnesota for a variety of skill levels.

Besides the 450 turkey farmers, the state has three turkey processing facilities that are short of workers, Olson said.

One of the state's 46 million turkeys took center stage Monday, as Dayton and his guests stood beside it and some products process in the turkey facilities.

Dayton dubbed the tom turkey "Stop the Badgers," his wish as the University of Minnesota visits the University of Wisconsin on Saturday.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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