The horrible, solvable problem of hunger

PHOTO: Germanna Community College, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

A mother flees an abusive husband with her four children. She hasn’t worked in a long time and her parents live out of state. She’s leaving the shelter soon, but isn’t on her feet yet.

An retired contractor wracked with a bad back can’t pick up jobs anymore. He is alone. One day he finds his cupboards bare. The social security check is 10 days away.

A fire destroys a local business. One of the workers lives upstairs. She and her family lost their home and their income in one fateful night.

These stories are just hypothetical, but each resemble a story or situation I know personally. These things don’t happen somewhere else. They happen right here in Northern Minnesota. They’re happening now.

From 2012 to 2016, the organization Hunger Solutions reports that senior visits to Minnesota food shelves rose 49 percent, with a corresponding 10 percent increase in adult visits.

As in the case of poverty itself, the most numerous victims of hunger are children and the elderly. Despite stereotypes and political vitriol most come from situations far beyond their control.

I write this because Tina Erickson with the Chisholm Food Shelf board of directors contacted me very concerned about the future of one of our few local food banks. This food bank serves Chisholm, Buhl, Balkan Township and Side Lake. Last year they distributed almost 100,000 pounds of food to an average of 500 people per month. That’s an almost 50 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. They broke a monthly record in December, serving more than 300 families in need.

The Chisholm Food Shelf received a grant from Hunger Solutions last year that allowed them to buy a van and set up a monthly distribution center in Buhl as well. It lets them serve more people, but also comes with expenses. As a small food shelf they have only one part time employee. They operate on less than $100,000, most of which goes toward food.

That’s why this upcoming month is so critical. The Chisholm Food Shelf will be raising funds to qualify for the matching donations throughout March. They have a GoFundMe page if you are interested in donating.

They’re hardly the only food bank in the area. I had the privilege of being auctioned off as a “celebrity server” (ie: inexperienced, largely incompetent waiter) for the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank fundraiser last month in Grand Rapids. They serve Itasca and other counties. Here in Hibbing, the Salvation Army is trying to pick up the slack after the Hibbing Area Food Shelf closed last year. In Virginia, a similar campaign is taking place. Everywhere there is need, there are people struggling to keep these food banks going.

It’s true, our government could better manage the way Americans receive food and benefits. There are, no doubt, many spirited conversations to have about this. But every one of us can do something on our own, too.

We could call it Christian charity if only for the fact that it goes back much farther in human history than that. Civilization finds ways to feed its neediest people, especially its children.

And we are civilized.

So find it in your heart to help the Chisholm Food Bank or your local food bank this month. If you can’t donate money, donate your time. There is much work to do in feeding the people of the Iron Range. We should rightly be judged on our reaction to the needs of others. For feeding someone today might mean they feed us when we need it most. In this way we lift each other up. It’s the most human transaction in the world.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. Thank you so much for helping raise awareness!

  2. Kerri Halberg says

    Thank you so much for the story of awareness & the honesty of that we can all do something about this problem of “food insecurity” as it’s so-called.
    Food is a RIGHT…not a PRIVELAGE..but the lack of availability for those who need it has been long ignored…this really can’t be a problem for a first world civilized society! Sadly it is.
    Kerri Halberg CFS BOARD

  3. John Koppel says

    Thank you, Aaron, for hearing our heart at CFS, and for reaching out to better the lives of those around us. Doing life in N.E. Mn. can be challenging at times, and I’m always encouraged when I see Northlanders who have had an opportunity (or made a choice) to plant roots and make a difference. Thanks for being one of them!
    John Koppel, CFS Board

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