Created: 04/18/2014 5:29 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- New research show Minnesota is one of the best in the nation at keeping its citizens fed.
In a recent study, Minnesota ranked second in the country for lowest rates of food insecurity at 10.7 percent, trailing only North Dakota (7.7 percent) for lowest percentage of people at risk for hunger.
Wisconsin (12.6 percent) and Iowa (12.7 percent) weren't far behind, coming in seventh and eighth, respectively.
Researchers said Minnesota fairs so well partly because of the state's low unemployment rate, but also because of its network of food shelves.
"Having the food shelf here, it helps them know that they're going to have something that they can pull from if they need that extra food supply for a couple weeks, couple months, whatever it is,” said Bethany Mikesell, organizer of the food shelf at United Methodist Church in Ellendale, Minnesota.
The food pantry was started in 2009 after organizers saw families struggling to make ends meet, having to choose between food or other necessities like rent or medicine.
Since then, the pantry's mission has grown.
"Last year we served over 2500 people, which was a little over 800 families,” Mikesell said. “We gave out just over 33,000 pounds of food last year, which again, when you look at the size of our communities, that's a lot of food."
Summer can be the most difficult time of year for food shelves, with schools no longer providing meals for children, and donations typically falling off.
But Mikesell said she's confident communities across the state will rise to meet the need.
"I think all of southern Minnesota, because they have that rural community feel, they're always willing to help out a neighbor,” Mikesell said. “We ask for something, we get it tenfold."
According to the most recent data, 40 percent of those seeking emergency food assistance in Minnesota are children, up five percent over recent years.