Minnesota state Sen. Steve Drazkowski Never Met a Hungry Person? Nonsense

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Speaking out against a proposed school breakfast and lunch program, Republican state Sen. Steve Drazkowski said this week that he “has yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry.”

Guess he doesn’t get out much.

At least a dozen food pantries are feeding record numbers in Drazkowski’s home district, officials told The Daily Beast. The Lake City Food Shelf had eight families come in during just the first half-hour on Thursday. It often sees between 20 and 30 families in a day, more than 100 in a week.

That number is up considerably in recent years. And the longtime director, Carole Helgerson, says the same is generally true throughout District 20, which Drazkowski represents.

“We’re all seeing increases,” the 76-year-old retired sixth-grade teacher said. “Some of them you can almost say doubled since before COVID.”

Statewide, there were a record 5.5 million visits to food pantries last year, up from 1.9 million in 2021. And as someone wh0 had been feeding the needy as a volunteer for 16 years, Helgerson is unable to fathom how Drazkowski can say he has not encountered a single hungry Minnesotan.

“How can that be?” she asked. “I’m sure he doesn’t get out and he’s just a big old politician.”

She summarized her view of the 58-year-old Republican lawmaker who served eight terms in the state House of Representatives before being elected to the state Senate in 2022.

“I’m sorry, he’s just an asshole,” she said.

Among those who are decidedly not assholes are the 40 people who volunteer with her.

“For the most part they are all retired peope who want to give back,” she said.

The families who arrive are given a list of the available food items, which include fresh fruit and vegetables. There is also bread that a bakery would otherwise discard and meat frozen and donated by WalMart after it neared the “sell by” date.

Target donates items, including jumbo bags of candy that have been opened. The volunteers make little surprise packages that they sometimes include when they assemble what the families marked on the day’s list.

“It’s a little like Halloween,” Helgerson said.

She says only a very small percentage of the families fail to express their gratitude.

“We get things like, ‘God bless you for doing this,’” she reported. “It’s a good feeling to go home and say, ‘Hey, I made a difference in somebody’s life.’”

A basic principle applies to all the food pantries.

“Helping people when they need it,” Helgerson said.

One shelter that has not seen the surge experienced by many others in Drazkoski’s hometown of Mazeppa.

“We’ve been up to 30 families,” Jim Perrotti, the 61-year-old director of the Mazeppa food shelf, told The Daily Beast. “Right now, it’s down a bit.”

But, he added, “we got people who are hungry.” And, with his hometown’s population under 900 and with Drazkowski’s home just a little over a mile from the food shelf, it seems the senator would have had a good chance of encountering somebody in serious need of a meal.

“I see him in the gas station putting gas in his vehicle, so I know he goes out,” Perrotti said.

If he wants to meet a hungry person, Drazkowski could just make the four-minute drive to the food shelf from the house that doubles as his district office.

Should Drazkowski stick around and volunteer, he would learn, as Perriotti has learned, that misfortune can visit anybody. He will also see how people open up when they are welcomed with what he calls a “‘how’s your day going?’ and ‘what can we help you with?’” attitude.

“They’ve all got an interesting story,” Perrotti said.

Perrotti says that at least once every other year, someone who has been coming in will vanish for a while and return with a check for something like $100.

“And say, ‘You don’t know what it meant to us,” Perrotti reported.

Drazkowsi did not respond to a Daily Beast request for comment. Anybody who doubts Helgerson’s appraisal need only consider the added callousness the politician voiced in the Senate.

“Now, I should say that hunger is a relative term,” he said. “I had a cereal bar for breakfast. I guess I’m hungry now.”

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