MN Hunger Initiative Blog

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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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. For over 75 years, Keystone has maintained a consistent mission while remaining responsive to the changing needs of the community. Keystone has seven sites throughout the St. Paul area and serves more than 30,000 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 make their work possible! Keystone believes that all of our neighbors in need should have access to vital support to be self-sufficient, stable and successful. To be successful, individuals and families in our community need access to healthy food resources. Keystone has expanded food support programs by increasing distributions through the Foodmobile (mobile food shelf program) and continuing to offer free farmers market events throughout the summer growing season. Throughout all of the food programs, providing healthy food options is their top priority. This year, Keystone participated in the pilot of the Healthy Eating Inventory (HEI) and our program rated highly with an 80 HEI score. For comparison, the average American diet rates a 56.  To encourage healthy food choices, Keystone is currently participating with the Super Shelf program, along with three other metro area programs. Through the program Keystone is applying retail store design principles to help shape participant behavior toward choosing the healthiest foods. The project is working toward increasing utilization of fresh produce and making healthy choices more attractive to food shelf participants. Through all these efforts, Keystone is supporting individuals and families in need by giving them access to nutritious food. Keystone’s biggest event of the year is right around the corner! The annual fun-raising event, Keys to Success Event, is scheduled for September 28 and will take place at the Merriam Park Community Center. Tickets are only $35 and all proceeds from the event will help support the 30,000 neighbors in need on our community who rely on Keystone for support. Sign up to mingle with your neighbors, enjoy delicious food and drinks, and win “keys” for our surprise raffle. Buy your ticket on Keystone’s website or find event information on their Facebook page.     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. Head to their website to learn more and get...

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Featured Partner: Metro Meals on Wheels

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Featured Partner: Metro Meals on Wheels

The featured partner this month is Metro Meals on Wheels! Metro Meals on Wheels is the association of 32 Meals on Wheels programs in the Twin Cities. What Meals on Wheels provides is fresh nutritious food delivered right to client’s doors, as well as a daily visit from a volunteer. They serve seniors and people living with disabilities in the Twin Cities. Their services provide the basic need of healthy meal, as well as allowing people to live in their own home longer and maintain independence. This past year Meals on Wheels took the exciting step of opening their own kitchen, The Kitchen of Opportunities, through a partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota and Urban Ventures. This new kitchen brings the food preparation in house, and in turn will reduce costs and provide healthier, more customizable menu options. Meals on Wheels has began the process of integrating some of their member programs into using the kitchen, and it is expected that up to $200,000 in annual food costs will be saved by local programs. Meals on Wheels’ biggest event of the year is right around the corner! The annual cocktail party, Meals on Heels, will be taking place on August 17, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. All the proceeds from the event go to support Metro Meals on Wheels. Included in each ticket is access to samplings of food and drinks from top restaurants and breweries in the Twin Cities, entertainment from Tim Mahoney, raffles and other games, and of course entrance into the Swank Soles Contest. For event and ticket information visit the Meals on Heels website, or their Facebook page. Metro Meals on Wheels relies on the generous support of those in the community who believe in their work. You can donate or volunteer to Metro Meals on Wheels, or head to their website to learn more about...

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Featured Partner: CEAP

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Featured Partner: CEAP

The mission of CEAP (Community Emergency Assistance Programs) is to stabilize individuals and families in financial distress and to maximize their ability to live independently and with dignity. CEAP works to provide a holistic approach to providing resources to people in the community. They do this by offering a variety of services to their clients in order to meet their basic needs and in turn help them attain self-sufficiency. Their services operate in the areas of food support, transportation solutions, referrals, clothing, and community health. They serve Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, East Champlin in Hennepin County, and all of Anoka County. An exciting program that CEAP runs is their Farm Fresh Fest. It is a summer festival that includes produce stands, grilled hot dogs, food samples, games, musics, community resources, and more! Each event draws in hundreds of people, and is a great place to go with families. The program kicks off Friday, July 21 and will run every other Friday until the end of October. If you are interested in supporting CEAP you can donate or volunteer, you can also learn more about the programs they offer by visiting their...

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Victories at the Capitol for Fighting Hunger in our State!

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Victories at the Capitol for Fighting Hunger in our State!

Hunger Solutions works to advocate and give a voice to those who are facing the challenge of hunger in our state. Here are the issues that were of top priority for them this past legislative session, and the outcomes of their efforts: Market Bucks Funding With help from supporters emailing and calling lawmakers, funding for Market Bucks was restored. Market Bucks are money that is matched with money on a EBT card, and can be used at farmers markets all over Minnesota. If you would like to learn more about Market Bucks and how they work, you can check out a previous Minnesota Hunger Initiative post that will give you more details about Market Bucks and SNAP/EBT cards in Minnesota. Food Shelf Funding Increase An increase in funding for food shelves in Minnesota has passed! This money will go toward buying more proteins, fruits, vegetables and diapers. From 2011-2015 food shelf visits have increased by almost 6 percent for every age group, so now is the perfect time to be taking action on food insecurity in Minnesota. Good Food Access Fund It is estimated that 235,000 Minnesota live more than 10 miles away from a grocery store, supermarket, or supercenter. In order to keep access to healthy food in all areas of Minnesota, The Good Food Access Fund asked for an increase in funding so that they can continue their work. The Good Food Access fund was included in the Agriculture Budget, although it is unclear at this time what exactly this will mean. The Commission of Agriculture can appropriate up to $250,000 to the program per year.   Mobile Food Shelf Funding The ask for renewed funding for Mobile Food Shelves was not accomplished, but that doesn’t mean that the advocacy for Mobile Food Shelves will stop. The efforts to request funding for this program will continue in years to come. If you are interested in learning more about Hunger Solutions and the work they are doing, check out their...

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What is Minnesota doing to fight child hunger this summer?

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What is Minnesota doing to fight child hunger this summer?

*This post has been updated with new additions and the most recent data from the 2016-2017 school year. For many children in the state of Minnesota, meals at school are the only meals that they will have all day. According to the Minnesota Department of Health over 38.1 percent of kids receive free or reduced price lunch at their school, but only 17 percent of them receive summer meals from a program. One of the Minnesota Hunger Initiative partners, Second Harvest Heartland, has provided a great resource for those looking for information on summer meal programs. Here you will find an interactive map where you can type in your address and they will show you all locations that are serving summer meals for children under 18. They have also added a special feature that makes finding meal sites even easier! Just text “Food” to 877-877 and you will receive a text back with the address of summer meal sites in your area. Another exciting new addition coming this summer is the Metro Transit Summer Student Pass! Through a partnership between Metro Transit and Second Harvest Heartland, they are working to break down the barrier of transportation so children will be able to access free summer meals. Last year schools and other organizations at 870+ summer meal sites provided almost three million meals to children ages 18 and under. If you have children who would benefit from a free healthy meal, or you know some that would, let them know about this opportunity. If you would like to learn more about the Summer Food Service Program you can go here. Another one of our partner organizations, Loaves & Fishes, has a great Summer Meal Program dedicated to feeding children when they are out of school. On top of the 20 sites where they serve food at year round, they have an additional 9 specifically for children during the summer. What makes their program so unique is their focus on providing healthy food to the sites where their food is served. Because a portion of the food they supply is grown by them at their own farms, they have the advantage of serving fresh produce to the children at their sites. If you would like to find out more about Loaves & Fishes Summer Food Service Program you can visit their website. With only 17 percent of children in need being reached through the Summer Food Service Program, there is a need for more locations that provide food for them. If your school or nonprofit organization is interested in sponsoring and hosting a Summer Food Service Program you can find information about that here. Let’s work together to fight child hunger this summer!...

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Kitchen of Opportunities Grand Opening!

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Kitchen of Opportunities Grand Opening!

Earlier this month Metro Meals on Wheels, a partner organization of the Minnesota Hunger Initiative, had the grand opening of their new kitchen! Called the “Kitchen of Opportunities”, it really is a great opportunity for Meals on Wheels to provide seniors in the community with food that is more fresh and nutritious, as well as streamline the food production process and save money. Up until now Meals on Wheels programs have received all their food from outside professional caterers. The new operation will lower the cost of food for Meals on Wheels clients, which in turn will lead to feeding more seniors in need. The ability to create their own menu and tailor meals to meet clients’ needs and preferences is something that Meals on Wheels is very excited about. “It’s been great,” says Judy, who is 72 and lives in Brooklyn Park. “I really like the new food. The turkey meatloaf is really good and the fish is really good.” This new kitchen effort was not done alone though. It was made possible through a partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota (also a member of the Minnesota Hunger Initiative) and Urban Ventures, Inc. For more information on the Kitchen or Opportunities and it’s impact on Meals on Wheels, check out this post from the Meals on Wheels...

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