A hand holds a bag of parnips near a pile of fresh parsnips

Food Sourcing

Collecting nutritious, healthy, fresh and diverse foods at scale is a critical part of our role as one of the nation’s largest food banks. Last year we sourced over 141 million pounds of food.

Step 1 in Hunger Relief: Sourcing Food

At Second Harvest Heartland, we’re excited to be pioneering new ways to safely and efficiently source and distribute more fresh foods, more culturally connected ingredients, and to work with a larger variety of farmers, growers, manufacturers and retail partners. 

Together, we reduce food waste and divert safe, edible food from landfills to provide it to more people in need. In all our food rescue and sourcing efforts, we’re committed to ending hunger, sustaining our environment and supporting diversity and inclusion.

Nearly 2/3 fresh

Fresh foods like meats, produce, dairy and bakery items comprise nearly two-thirds of the food we source and distribute.

Over 41 million pounds rescued

Our largest sources of edible and nutritious food are items unsold at grocery and convenience stores that we rescue from going to waste.

Nearly 12 million pounds sourced locally

Minnesota farmers, growers and processors contribute excess crops and produce directly to our food bank.

Meet Our Partners in Food Rescue and Sourcing


Through our Retail Food Rescue program, we collect unsold but perfectly edible and nutritious food from retailers like grocery and convenience stores. Last year we worked with approximately 628 retail partners saved more than 41 million pounds of food from going to waste. Retailers are our largest food source and provide us with sizable quantities of produce, dairy, meat, bakery and grocery items.



Local farmers, commercial growers and food processors support us by donating excess produce and slightly imperfect foods that would otherwise go unharvested, or go to waste if unsold. Through our agricultural partnerships, we also support BIPOC growers and community farmers by purchasing needed food items directly from growers. Sustainability and inclusivity are cornerstones of our mission and values.



Food manufacturers and distribution centers donate products that may be mislabeled or have a short shelf life remaining, such as frozen meats, cereal or baked goods. Our participation in the Feeding America network of food banks helps facilitate this collaboration.


Restaurants and Caterers

Food manufacturers, restaurants, caterers, event centers and other commercial kitchens donate excess prepared food through the MealConnect program. It’s a convenient and safe way to share the bounty of surplus meals, help our hungry neighbors and help reduce waste—all at the same time.



Second Harvest Heartland Food Sources


Second Harvest Heartland Food Sources chart

Did You Know?

Food donations from individuals make up only a fraction of our food sources—less than half of one percent last year. Our size and scale as one of the largest and most efficient hunger relief organizations in the country enables us to collect, rescue and purchase needed food items in bulk, which amplifies our reach and significantly reduces the cost of getting healthy food where it’s needed most.

Box containing a bag of jasmine rice and other food


Addressing the Hunger Divide With

Hispanic Minnesotans are nearly 3 times as like as White Minnesotans to experience hunger, and Black Minnesotans are over 5 times as likely. It's one reason we source culturally specific foods like pollock, jasmine rice, sardines or cumin. In 2023, we distributed 2.9 million pounds of culturally connected food, an increase of over 165% compared to the previous year, including over 264,000 pounds of locally grown produce sourced from BIPOC growers.

A woman smiles as she picks a tomato from a hanging vine


Local Farmers

“To make sure that fruit gets into a kitchen, onto a table, and into somebody’s family meal, that’s what we want to do.” - Chuck Tryon, President of Bushel Boy Farms

Learn More About Food Banking

Food sourcing is the first step in how Second Harvest Heartland works as a wholesaler, sourcing large amounts of food and making it available to smaller, local food shelves and food pantries, so they can provide free groceries and healthy meals to our neighbors experiencing hunger and food insecurity.