For the first time since 2019, thousands are expected to fill the Mall of America on Thanksgiving morning on a walk to raise money for Minnesota hunger relief organizations.

The Walk to End Hunger, now in its 15th year, aims to raise $200,000 for seven nonprofits at the in-person event Thursday. The walk was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Money raised will support the statewide advocacy organization Hunger Solutions Minnesota; the Food Group and Second Harvest Heartland, two of the seven food banks in Minnesota that supply food shelves; and Loaves and Fishes, Meals on Wheels, Neighbors Inc. and PRISM, all organizations that provide free food to Minnesotans in need.

Food shelves across Minnesota have seen a huge influx in the number of residents needing food assistance during the pandemic. Nonprofit leaders say that need isn't subsiding, with the number of food shelf visits this year on pace to surpass 2020 and 2021.

Besides having to feed more people, food shelves are also grappling with higher costs because of inflation and supply chain issues.

More Minnesotans visited food shelves in 2020 than in any year on record, as the pandemic led to furloughs and layoffs. Food shelf visits dropped slightly in 2021, though the number remained higher than in 2019.

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