Minnesota food shelves, which experienced a record number of visits last year, will receive $5 million in emergency funding under a bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday.

Minnesotans visited food shelves more than 5.5 million times in 2022, a more than 50% increase from the previous year, data released by Hunger Solutions Minnesota shows. Food shelves had asked state leaders for the emergency relief to help meet the growing demand.

"Minnesota's food shelves play an essential role in helping Minnesotans feed their families and ease rising food costs," Walz said in a statement. "As we continue to work to lower costs and make life easier for Minnesotans, this funding will allow food shelves to continue to help working families put food on the table."

The funding will be "distributed as quickly as possible," according to the DFL governor's office.

More people have been seeking free food assistance amid rising inflation and cost of living, food shelf leaders say.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions, said the emergency funding will be split between the more than 400 food shelves in the state. Those that recorded the most visits over the past six months to a year will receive the most funding.

"It's going to arrive just in time to the food shelves when they have this tremendous need," she said. "The food shelves need food."

Moriarty said she hopes lawmakers will allocate more funding to food shelves in the spending bills they will assemble at the end of the legislative session. Walz's budget proposal includes $7.7 million for food shelves in 2023.

"I look forward to that support as well," she said.