“Soup Truck” criticized by advocates for the poor

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A 60-foot truck with a picture of Gov. Mark Dayton and a Depression-era soup line is traveling around the state — to the chagrin of people who combat hunger and poverty in Minnesota.

The conservative group Minnesota Majority wants to highlight what they argue will be the consequences of Dayton’s proposed income-tax hike on top earners: more job losses, and more economic pain. The group announced its plans yesterday.

“Governor Dayton may not comprehend the consequences of what he’s proposing, but the business community does,” Minnesota Majority President Jeff Davis said. “Higher taxes will mean fewer jobs.”

The truck will collect food shelf donations to help Minnesotans who are struggling to make ends meet. But it will also will distribute “Economic Survival Guide” pamphlets that include some satirical money-saving pointers, ways to prepare for the consequences of Dayton’s budget.

“The Soup Truck campaign aims to entertain and educate,” according to Minnesota Majority’s website.

But some advocates for low-income Minnesotans don’t like it.

“It’s degrading to people who are needing assistance in our state. It’s horrible,” said Colleen Moriarty, executive director of the advocacy group Hunger Solutions. “We’ve alerted our network that we’re really not interested in any kind of trick like this.

“It’s some attempt at humor, I guess, that makes fun of people who are needing the help of food shelves and others,” Moriarty said. “It’s just nothing we’d want to be involved in at all.”

Patrick Ness, policy director at the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, said the “Economic Survival Guide” was inappropriate in a time when many families are struggling with hunger.

“To link a tax proposal with soup lines as the budget is cutting the very basic needs of people who are homeless and living in poverty — it’s really offensive and really out of touch,” Ness said. “People are in soup lines right now, and it’s not funny.”

Davis said he’s very aware that poor Minnesotans are struggling right now.

“The most compassionate thing we can do is to advocate for policies that keep jobs in Minnesota,” he said. “Because once you push jobs and businesses out of the state, these are the people who are going to be hurt the most. It’s going to be the poor to middle class.”

The most compassionate thing to do, Davis said, is advocate for policies that keep jobs in Minnesota. He said the truck will also be collecting food donations for people in need.

The Soup Truck is expected to stop in St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids today.

Reporter Julie Siple covers hunger for MPR News.