More Minnesotans could be eligible this week for food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP income limits raised this year by the Legislature take effect Thursday, which means an additional 1,400 households may be eligible to receive or continue to receive food stamps.
Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide advocacy group, lobbied to raise the income limits for a couple of years. The food stamp program's gross income limit hasn't been increased since 2010.
"It means that more people falling on hardship right now are going to get help," said Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions. "There are a lot of people who are living right on the edge."
The change comes at a time when more Minnesotans are seeking food assistance, financially stressed by the high price of everything from gas to groceries.
About 436,600 Minnesotans were enrolled in SNAP in July. While that number is lower than in 2021, the average number of food stamp recipients is still above 2020 and 2019 levels, according to state data.
For most Minnesota households, the gross monthly income limit for SNAP will rise to 200% of the federal poverty line, up from 165%. Under the new limit, a family of three with an annual income of up to about $46,000 before taxes will be eligible.
"This change will help more Minnesotans feed their families," state Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said in a statement.
Hunger Solutions also lobbied during the legislative session for free school breakfasts and lunches for all Minnesota kids, along with $8 million in funding for food shelves, food banks and meal programs, and $15 million for capital investments such as expanding food shelves. None of those proposals passed.
Raising the income limits for food stamps, Moriarty said, "was one of the few wins."
After the session, Gov. Tim Walz allocated $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for food banks and tribal nations with the approval of the Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission.
The state also was accepted for a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program that expands free meals to about 90,000 students on Medicaid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal aid paid for free school meals for all students, but that program has since expired.
To apply for SNAP and other public assistance programs, go to mnbenefits.mn.gov or call the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 888-711-1151.