Al Franken declares Minnesota sweet corn the best in the world

Minnesota Senator Al Franken may spend most of his time in D.C., but his mind is often on the state's food: getting it to needy children, pumping up farmers markets, and even bragging about the sweetness of our corn.

1. You recently announced a $1 million grant for Minnesota food shelves to create nutrition programs for children living in poverty. Has the recession made this a growing problem in our state? I'm increasingly concerned about children in Minnesota whose families can't afford even the reduced prices for school meals, especially during this recession. By the time the recession ended in 2010, an additional 33 percent of our kids in Minnesota would have fallen into poverty. This is a severe problem that I'm working to address.

2. One of your stated goals is to make sure Minnesotans have access to food from local farmers and farmers markets--the ability to buy directly from the producer. How are you ensuring local food access for Minnesotans? I think farmers markets and direct farm-to-institution setups are a great way to support our Minnesota farmers and provide high-quality, fresh food for people around the state. We have fantastic models of this in Minnesota. St. Paul has a nationally recognized farm-to-school program, where kids in St. Paul schools are eating fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy from farmers in the state. I'm a co-sponsor of the Growing Farm to School Programs Act, which would create a USDA grant program for schools and communities to set up farm-to-school programs like the one in St. Paul. I'm pleased that this language has been included in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill and has to come to the full Senate for a vote.

3. When you come home to Minneapolis from D.C., what are some of your favorite local restaurants to visit? I love going to Hell's Kitchen for their Mahnomin porridge. We use their recipe for the Mahnomin porridge we serve every Wednesday to visitors who come to my Minnesota Breakfast here in D.C. I also love going to the Green Mill for the Kabeelo Lodge Walleye.

4. Summer is the best time to have a hearty appetite in Minnesota. What seasonal foods are worth bragging about to your fellow senators? Minnesota has the best sweet corn in the world and has every other state beat, and as far as I know, every other country.

5. When you head to the State Fair, what are you top three must-have food items? My favorite is the roasted corn, followed by walleye on a stick and pork chops.

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