Strengthening the Hunger Relief System
Solving hunger starts with food, trucks and helping hands. To make even greater progress, we’re inviting others to join our community of hunger fighters and find new solutions to the age-old problem of hunger.
Inviting new partners into the conversation to close the missing meal gap
Despite our progress, nearly 600,000 Minnesotans are still food-insecure. One way to bring more meals into the system is to reach out to other sectors to forge valuable partnerships and broaden the conversation about hunger.
We’re connecting with systems affected by hunger, such as education and health. Our Health and Hunger Forum and Briefing in 2014 brought together leaders from health care and the community to find mutual benefits around working together to ensure hungry families have meals on the table. In the future, food banks might partner with a hospital or clinic to link patients to an emergency food site, or work with schools and health care outlets to help connect people with available food programs.
Sharing our expertise in finding and collecting agricultural surplus to bring more fresh food into the emergency food network
The demand for fresh food – especially fruits and vegetables – has never been greater. To meet this need, Second Harvest Heartland has worked with local growers and farmers for the last few years to harvest agricultural surplus – edible crops that would otherwise go unused or plowed back into the ground. We’ve worked with growers to get millions of pounds of sweet corn distributed to hungry people in our region, as well as more than 15 different kinds of produce ranging from apples to zucchini.
Recently we have leveraged our learnings from this experience in two critical ways:
- We’re leveraging what we’ve learned from collecting agricultural surplus by leading the Produce Capture Institute (located inside Second Harvest Heartland), the first peer learning initiative within the Feeding America network specifically focused on locally sourcing and distributing unused agricultural products. We’re working with 10 food banks in the Feeding America network to replicate the group’s learnings and bring in-demand produce to more hungry families across the country.
- In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature, with support from Second Harvest Heartland as well as other Minnesota Feeding America food banks, passed the “Farm to Foodshelf” bill. Farm to Foodshelf is a $2 million appropriation funded by the Minnesota Legislature, to help Minnesota agricultural producers and processors offset the cost to harvest and package their donated fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go unharvested or be discarded. Funds are not designed to cover the cost of the produce itself, but to encourage growers to donate produce out of their fields that would otherwise go unused. Administered by participating Feeding America food banks, millions of pounds of Minnesota-grown produce is being distributed to families through produce distributions at food shelves and other agency partners.
Using data to illuminate issues and drive change
We partner with other local hunger relief organizations as well as nationally recognized research and consulting leaders to dig deep into research about hunger. The Community Close-Up tool from Boston Consulting Group and Hunger-Free Minnesota provides critical data that identifies the level of food insecurity in neighborhoods at the census tract level. This data is being used to inform not only conversations about hunger on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, but also to help develop new programs and outreach methods in high-need areas identified by the data.