MN Hunger Initiative Blog

Featured Partner: The Food Group

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Featured Partner: The Food Group

For 42 years The Food Group has worked to provide good foods to those who need it most in our community.  We focus on local food access, equity, and nutrition issues related to food and hunger in more than 21 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.The Food Group works on both ends of the food system from production to distribution. Working towards building a better local food system for all, we focus on breaking down barriers to growing good food locally and breaking down barriers to getting good food to those who need it most. Below three of The Food Group’s programs are highlighted. Food Shelf Support We partner with 170 food shelves and meal programs to offer distribution of donated food, bulk purchasing (supplements the variety and quantity of donated food they receive), TEFAP food distribution (a government commodities program), nutrition education and resources, capacity building support, and culturally equitable food and resources. Fare For All We operate a traveling nutritious grocery store, which makes monthly stops at 37 distribution sites across the Twin Cities and greater MN to offer fresh produce and quality meats.  We break down barriers for families seeking to stretch their food purchasing power and achieve self-sufficiency by offering discounts up to 30 percent off retail prices. Big River Farms Our newly acquired programming offers organic and sustainable agriculture education for local immigrant and historically underserved farmers.  It also creates market opportunities for the participating farmers (via a CSA, farmer’s markets, and wholesale markets), provides educational programming on sustainable agriculture to children and community members, and hosts an annual Emerging Farmers Conference. If you would like to learn more about The Food Group visit their website or follow their Facebook and Twitter...

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Featured Partner: Loaves and Fishes

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Featured Partner: Loaves and Fishes

Loaves and Fishes’ Minnesota free meal program began 36 years ago, in 1982, with one dining site each in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Since that time, they have grown to serving 2,000 meals daily, are present in seven Minnesota counties, and are the largest open-to-the-public free meal program in the state. They serve free, healthy meals to people in need in areas where that need is greatest. Their enhanced mission emphasizes nutrition in every meal, which includes a local farm-to-table approach during Minnesota’s growing season. Loaves and Fishes is always guided by their vision that all people, regardless of socioeconomic, cultural or ethnic background, deserve to meet their basic needs for food, dignity and respect. Through a partnership with Greater Twin Cities United Way, Loaves and Fishes’ Minnesota was able to start the Farm for All program. Volunteers give their time at the four community gardens and farm sites to provide fresh, organic food to Loaves and Fishes meal sites across the Twin Cities.   If you are interested in learning more about Loaves and Fishes or volunteering you can visit their website here. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter...

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Featured Partner: VEAP

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Featured Partner: VEAP

VEAP is a basic needs and social services organization whose programs promote access to healthy foods, stable housing and community connections and supports.  VEAP’s programs are designed address a particular need, and when used together provide hope, can help avoid a financial crisis such as loss of housing, transportation or employment.  Hardships can come from a disability, job transition, or the financial and physical stresses of aging, which is why VEAP has been helping the communities of Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and South Minneapolis for 45 years. VEAP’s programs are designed to create pathways to stability.  They take appointments for up to 120 households per day, providing healthy food, access to housing stability, resources for employment and other community connections. VEAP’s licensed social workers meet with new clients, allowing for a deeper level of intake and assessment ensuring clients have access to the tools they need to stabilize their situation. VEAP’s largest outreach is its food program which includes a food pantry, supplemental food programs for youth, food deliveries for seniors and a mobile food pantry. When a family or individual faces a crisis, having reliable access to healthy food can free up dollars in the monthly budget to allocate to housing, utilities, transportation, medication and more. Clients have told us that what they need is access to fresh and healthy foods and the main barrier to eating healthy everyday is cost. VEAP continues to look for ways to increase healthy food access.  The Summer Youth Food Program ensures that families with school aged children can visit VEAP one additional time each month.  During the school year, VEAP works with local schools to provide food packs for Friday afternoon distribution to food-insecure students. Identifying needs in the community is top priority.  In March of 2018, VEAP launches a new Mobile Food Pantry to distribute fresh food at targeted locations and neighborhoods around the communities served by VEAP.  Families with young children and seniors are two groups that will receive the outreach of this vital service. The emphasis will be on fresh fruit and vegetables and other perishables, meeting the needs and desires voiced by VEAP’s clients.  Currently 55% of food distributed by VEAP is fresh produce, and the addition of the Mobile Food Pantry will help to increase that percentage. Additionally, this will create deeper social connections in the community. The lack of affordable housing is one of the key drivers of financial instability for low-income residents. VEAP is a strong advocate in this area, working with various community partners and local housing coalitions to address this issue and help clients achieve dignity and housing stability. There are many ways for the community to be involved with VEAP. For every dollar donated, VEAP is able to purchase $10 worth of food. Donations can be made at VEAP’s website, www.veap.org.  Hosting a food & fund drive in your office, congregation or neighborhood is a great way to collect healthy food and support VEAP’s food programs.  To register, go to https://veap.org/donate/donate-food/food-drive-registration/ .  If you have a group interested in volunteering at VEAP, visit https://veap.org/donate/donate-and-do/. VEAP’s vision is to create a thriving community where all are free to pursue their dreams.  VEAP’s mission is creating pathways to stronger, more hopeful, communities through access to healthy food, housing stability and supportive services.  VEAP is...

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Featured Partner: Keystone Community Services

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Featured Partner: Keystone Community Services

The featured partner this month is Keystone Community Services. Founded in 1939 by community volunteers, Keystone Community Services is a multi-service nonprofit organization that provides high-quality social services in the community and in neighborhood gathering places to support and strengthen individuals, families and communities. Keystone has seven sites throughout the St. Paul area and serves more than 35,000 people through services in the areas of basic needs, youth school success and healthy development, youth employment, and senior services. More than 3,000 community volunteers, along with donor support, make Keystone’s work possible! Keystone believes that all of our neighbors in need should have access to vital supports to be stable and thriving. To be successful, people need access to healthy food resources. In addition to operating three food shelves, Keystone has expanded food support programs by increasing distributions through Foodmobile (a mobile food shelf program) and continuing to offer free farmers market events throughout the summer growing season. Through all these efforts, Keystone is supporting individuals and families in need by giving them access to nutritious food. Want to support Keystone’s food shelf efforts? March is a great time to get involved with food shelves like Keystone. Throughout the month, food shelves across the state work with local businesses, faith communities and individuals to raise funds and stock food shelves with fresh food. Need some inspiration about how to get involved? Here are some ideas: Hold a food drive – ask your employer or faith community to hold a food drive. Collect specialty food items with your book club or group of friends – read a book about hunger or a story prominently featuring food and bring specialty food items to donate to your next gathering.   Engage children – encourage kids to get their favorite food items at the grocery store to donate for other kids at the food shelf. Ask your family to support a charity on your behalf – celebrate your birthday, anniversary or other important milestone by having friends donate to food shelf in your honor. Find your way to support neighbors in need this March! Keystone Community Services relies on the generous support of the community to further their mission. You can donate to or volunteer with Keystone Community Services to support neighbors in need. If you are interested in learning more about Keystone, click...

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Walk to End Hunger 2017 Recap

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Walk to End Hunger 2017 Recap

It feels like just yesterday we were walking around the Mall of America early on Thanksgiving morning. Thank you to all of the walkers and everyone who donated to the Walk to End Hunger in any form. On top of the money raised for each individual organization, the money raised for the general Walk to End Hunger fund is split between the 12 organizations.     Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved we were able to raise over $285,000 to fight hunger in our state. We also want to thank the nearly 2,500 participants who got up early and joined us as part of their Thanksgiving holiday to support the fight against hunger.     Go and like the Walk to End Hunger Facebook page for some event photos and to keep up to date with Walk to End Hunger news throughout the...

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Featured Partner: Valley Outreach

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Featured Partner: Valley Outreach

Valley Outreach primarily serves the St. Croix Valley area through basic needs programs including a food shelf, clothing closet, emergency assistance fund, resource advising and case management. Off-site programming consists of a weekend snack pack program for students, Mobile Choice (monthly home delivery of food) and seasonal produce distributions. Valley Outreach strives to treat all their clients with respect, while also supporting and empowering them. In the past year Valley Outreach collaborated with HealthPartners, The Food Group, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in order to create SuperShelf. SuperShelf transforms food shelves, creating welcoming environments for communities to access appealing, healthy food. You can support Valley Outreach by volunteering with them or by donating in a variety ways including monetary donations, clothes, or food. If you’re interested in learning more about Valley Outreach in general click...

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Featured Partner: Open Arms of Minnesota

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Featured Partner: Open Arms of Minnesota

It’s a simple notion: people who are sick should not be without food. Yet every day people in our community with life-threatening illnesses find themselves unable to shop or cook — and, often, without the support network to help. That’s where Open Arms of Minnesota comes in. Open Arms is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. Open Arms believes that food is medicine, and their work matters to the health outcomes of neighbors living with illness. With the help of over 6,000 volunteers, they’ll cook and deliver more than 600,000 medically-tailored meals this year to people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), as well as their caregivers and dependents. Since their founding in 1986, they’ve delivered more than 5 million nourishing meals to neighbors in need. THE 10TH ANNUAL TURKEY DRIVE Thanksgiving is a very special day at Open Arms of Minnesota. For more than 30 years, this holiday has been an important chance to show people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities that someone is thinking of them, particularly those who don’t otherwise have a support network. Open Arms offers their clients two choices for a Thanksgiving meal to share with their families: 1. Those who feel up to cooking receive a high-quality frozen turkey with all the fixings. 2. Those who are too sick to cook get a ready-to-enjoy turkey feast delivered on Thanksgiving Day. To support this special tradition, Open Arms is aiming to raise $50,000 in the 10th annual Turkey Drive! Every $50 donation provides a turkey and all the fixings for an Open Arms client and their family so they can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal made with love. Sponsor a turkey dinner at openarmsturkeydrive.org HOLIDAY PIES, COOKIES AND MORE Do something deliciously impactful this holiday season: Order handmade goodies from the Open Arms bakery, perfect for entertaining and host/hostess gifts! Every $25 purchase of Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, cookie dough, peppermint bark and boxes of cookies supports five meals for Open Arms’ clients living with life-threatening illnesses. Place your holiday order at...

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Start a New Family Tradition with The Walk to End Hunger

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Start a New Family Tradition with The Walk to End Hunger

Have you been looking for a new family tradition? The Walk to End Hunger is the perfect Thanksgiving tradition that provides fun and entertainment for the whole family, and gives back to those most in need! The Walk to End Hunger is a family-friendly walk hosted by the Mall of America and presented by The Mosaic Company. The Walk takes place Thanksgiving morning 7:00am-10:00am. You’ll have already worked up an appetite and supported hunger-relief organizations in Minnesota, all before the Thanksgiving Day festivities begin! The Walk to End Hunger has 12 organizations that participate in the event, 10 of which are Minnesota Hunger Initiative partners. You can either donate to or walk with a specific organization, or you can donate to the general fund which is then split between the 12 organizations. Walk You can walk with a certain organization and have the funds from your team go right to that organization, or you can be a general walker and have your funds split evenly between the participating organizations. There is a $25 registration fee when you sign up to walk. Donate If you have a specific organization that you want to donate to you can donate to a team or individual walking on their behalf, or you can donate to the general fund which benefits all twelve organizations. To keep up to date with all of the Walk to End Hunger news make sure you like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. The Walk to End Hunger website is the place to go to find all your information, sign up for the walk, donate, and more. We hope to see you Thanksgiving morning as we give back before we give...

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Featured Partner: Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

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Featured Partner: Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis serves those most in need.  It is a leader at solving poverty, creating opportunity, and advocating for justice. The needs for social services are constantly changing, and since its founding nearly 150 years ago, Catholic Charities has worked to adapt to these changes. Catholic Charities responds in three ways: preventing poverty, meeting basic needs in time of crisis, and creating pathways out of poverty. You can see the values of Catholic Charities at work in all of their 39 different programs which assist 30,000 people each year across the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul Region. Food-related Programs: A Bridge to Stability Catholic Charities’ drop-in meal programs located at the connection centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, serve as a bridge to stability. People who are on the verge of, or experiencing homelessness, come to Catholic Charities for meals, are screened for other needs, and then connected to a wide variety of critical services as pathways out of poverty. In addition to serving nutritious, hot meals, these convenient, one-stop locations encourage and empower clients in achieving both short- and long-term foundational stability and self-sufficiency, by offering on-site services to improve health, income, housing stability, and wellbeing. Historic Public-Private Partnership:  Dorothy Day Place Dorothy Day Place in Saint Paul—a bold new vision to prevent and end homelessness– is one of  Catholic Charities’ current critical initiatives. The original Dorothy Day Center was created 36 years ago with the intent to provide drop-in meals. As need for more resources was apparent, it transitioned into an overnight shelter. Six years ago they reached maximum capacity and had to begin turning people away who were looking for shelter. This is when the community came together and began the largest public-private partnership in state history in housing and social services:  Dorothy Day Place. The project is broken up into two phases. The first, which opened in January 2017, is “Higher Ground Saint Paul.” This five-story building, which is across the street from where the  Dorothy Day Center once stood, offers nearly 500 people experiencing homelessness a place to sleep at night through numerous options for emergency shelter and permanent housing. Phase 2 of the project will be the located on the former site of the Dorothy Day Center, and will be called the “Saint Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence”. This six-story building will be a one-stop location that will provide hot meals and connect people with the services they need most. The building will also include the Dorothy Day Residence, which will provide 177 permanent housing units. Construction has already begun for phase 2 and is planned to be completed by 2019. To learn more about Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis click here. Also check out this page for more information on the Dorothy Day Place...

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What Makes a More Welcoming Food Shelf?

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What Makes a More Welcoming Food Shelf?

How can we as a hunger fighting community make food shelves more welcoming? This is a question that many of our Minnesota Hunger Initiative partners regularly work to answer, and it is one that should be a part of more hunger relief discussions. Food shelf customers deserve dignity, respect, and an overall good experience when they arrive at a food shelf. Thanks to two of our partners, Hunger Solutions and Valley Outreach, we have come up with a few ways that food shelves, and the community as a whole, can make visiting food shelves a better experience. Arrival A visit to the food shelf should begin with clear signage outside of the building with hours of service as well as clear signage as to where customers should enter. By eliminating initial confusion, people will start off their trip on the right foot. Upon arrival into the building customers should be greeted by volunteers or staff, and have the food shelf’s process explained to them. Having a welcome space that has chairs, coffee, water, etc., will create a welcoming environment for customers. In addition, having a dedicated area for people to fill out forms or talk with staff is a key component for making a visitor feel safe. This area should be out of earshot of others so that everyone feels respected and the customer’s information is private. Language Changing the wording of signs is a simple move that can make a lot of difference. Providing signs in shopping areas that are not limiting, even if there are limits, is one way to achieve this task. An example of this would be “Up to 2 items per household” instead of “Limit 2 items per household”. Having information in multiple languages is another way to provide a more welcoming experience for all customers. Having announcements and information that promote inclusion and equity are also ways of using language to improve the food shelf experience. Organization Part of creating the welcoming atmosphere for people is making the experience easy for them. Having an organized food shelf is crucial to attaining this goal. During service hours food shelves can get busy, making it difficult to stay organized, but the welcome area should be kept as clean as possible at all times. The shopping area should be nicely painted and bright with shelves and racks well-labeled. Putting in place a choice model with limits on items or broad categories, rather than a weight limit, will give customers more freedom. Food Quality People visit food shelves for one reason: to get food. Providing people with healthy options, and a variety of them, will make for a high-quality visit. If possible, food shelves should offer food in all categories: fresh, frozen, shelf-stable, bakery, and cooler foods. For fresh food items, removing highly soiled and rotten items makes a huge difference in the customer experience. Availability and Access to Other Resources A welcoming food shelf will not only supply food, but it will also provide other resources that customers might need. Displaying information on other resources in the area along with locations of neighboring food shelves gives people a chance to review their options. There can also be posters regarding civil rights, voting rights, and other information that gives customers a chance to read the rights that...

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