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Sen. Tina Smith visits Rochester food bank to hear about relief funding progress

ROCHESTER, Minn. — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith visited Channel 1 Regional Food Bank in Rochester on Thursday, April 8, to see how federal relief funding has been put to use in the wake of the global pandemic.

According to Channel 1 Executive Director Virginia Merritt, the relief funding has played a crucial role in the food bank’s operation, which was looking at a significant deficit at the onset of the pandemic last year.

“It rescued us,” Merritt said. “More importantly, it rescued our food-insecure clients who were able to buy food immediately.”

Merritt and Smith toured the food bank’s warehouse, talking about the organization’s operations and how the relief funding has affected the situation. In addition to stopping at the food bank, Smith visited the Rochester Community Health Clinic Thursday as well.

Channel 1 serves a 14-county area. According to its website, it operates through “a network of 200 food shelves, pantries and programs.”

Merritt said they used to allow people to shop at the food bank once a month. They have since changed their policy so that customers can shop on a weekly basis.

Smith said food banks such as Channel 1 have played a pivotal role during the pandemic, serving a clientele base that grew by more than 50%.

“Cares Act funding has done so much to help people be able to get access to the food that they need to be healthy,” Smith said. “The level of food insecurity in our communities spiked upward really significantly.”

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