At CES, Neighbors Come Hungry, Leave Hopeful
She learned basic Somali, helped start an innovative pet food home delivery program and has memorized the favorite foods of dozens of her neighbors. These are just a few of the ways Saundra Holden has made a difference in the diverse and ever-changing neighborhood of Phillips in South Minneapolis.
An agency partner of Second Harvest Heartland, Community Emergency Service (CES) lives their values and pivots their programming to meet the specific needs of their neighbors.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child,” Saundra said, “it takes a village to raise a community.”
CES’s food program includes six initiatives, including a food shelf, an African food distribution, Meals on Wheels, a produce giveaway, a grocery home delivery service and a pet-food program called Ani-Meals.
Among their many efforts to meet the needs of their neighbors, CES sought and received a grant to employ a bilingual Somali speaker, which Saundra said has truly made their outreach more effective. About half of their home delivery clients are East African.
Saundra said she’s also made a point to learn a little of the Somali language herself in her few years at CES. “I’m not fluent,” Saundra said, “but I can understand the need.”
Perhaps surprisingly, another example of their good stewardship for their neighbors is actually in Ani-Meals.
For many of their 309 home delivery clients, “the companionship of their pet is extremely important,” Saundra said. She added that being home-bound, 40 percent of these clients have no other interaction other than with their pet on a typical day.
In response to this trend, about a year and a half ago they created Ani-Meals, a program that delivers free pet food to their home-bound clients. Saundra said the program relieves stress for their clients who may not be able to consistently afford and get transportation to pick up food for their dog or cat.
To sum up CES’s food programs, Saundra said, “You come hungry, but you leave hopeful.” CES responds to this in any way they can.
For example, home delivery clients who receive a bag of groceries usually get the same items each time. They get to state their preferences, and each bag is individualized for each client, but CES is understandably limited by the kinds of foods they receive as donations for more specific items.
Saundra is very familiar with each client’s story, and on the form where they fill out their requested food items, there’s a place to request a special food item. If CES happens to have that item donated, Saundra will sort out the item from the food shelf and place it in the home delivery grocery bag.
“People here know me as the ‘food shelf thief,’” Saundra said with a smile. “We aren’t just your food shelf; we care about what’s going on.”
One of the partners that make their work possible, Saundra said, is Second Harvest Heartland.
“Without the agencies working with us [like Second Harvest Heartland], we wouldn’t be able to sustain to the capacity that we do,” Saundra said.
“Second Harvest Heartland is a wealth of information,” Saundra said. “We are so reliant on Second Harvest Heartland for financial advantages for food products they offer.”
For example, CES can receive a large box of assorted meats to stock their food shelf freezer for about five dollars. If CES purchased this box of meat from a typical grocery store, they could be paying hundreds of dollars. But Second Harvest Heartland has the ability to offer a discounted price to food shelves because of their community partnerships.
And when your budget for your food programs is only $3,400 per month to serve hundreds of clients in their homes and on site, partnerships like these are essential.
CES also receives a delivery from Second Harvest Heartland’s Food Rescue program twice a month, which mostly contains fresh food and produce.
“Second Harvest Heartland supplies all of our produce,” Saundra added.
“The personal accessibility and being approachable is impressive,” Saundra said of working with Second Harvest Heartland. “[It’s a] perfect demonstration of becoming community.”
On average, 75 percent of food distributed by our food shelf partners comes from Second Harvest Heartland. When you support Second Harvest Heartland, you help us ensure innovators like Saundra have the ability to feed their hungry neighbors.