Accessing food

Providing more food access

When you address access to food, you have to address barriers.

There’s enough food, especially if we look nationally. The questions are: How do we work with growers and producers to shorten the distribution chain? What’s the best way to ensure our partners have the resources to store and distribute the fresh foods available? How do we bring awareness to safety-net programs that bridge the gap to help hungry families find stability?

Our efforts focus on addressing these barriers and others which have the largest potential to provide a balance of healthy foods and connect people to available nutrition programs.

Fresh produce at the community level

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Under tents and canopies in parking lots across the metro area, 10 of our partners in communities spend the summer months working closely with Second Harvest Heartland staff and volunteers distributing fruits and vegetables to communities with limited access to produce. Just like visiting a farmer’s market, families are offered a selection of fresh, locally-grown produce, but in this case, the food is free. In just four short months, 10,000 households visited distributions in their area leaving each time with almost 30 pounds of produce.

One partner, CAPI has been part of it from the beginning.

-Rachel Murphy, Food and Nutrition Coordinator for CAPI

Access outside of the growing season

Just a few years ago, potatoes, onions and miscellaneous produce rescued from the grocery store were all the produce that was available at food shelves during the months outside of Minnesota’s growing season. The Midwest Region Produce Cooperative was created to address how food banks in the region work together to give more access to produce in the “off-season.”

For two years, 16 member food banks representing seven states have been working together to reduce barriers to produce. The barriers are all challenges familiar to any shopper or retailer:

  • High cost of transportation driving up food costs.
  • Inadequate storage to keep highly perishable foods fresh.
  • Not having the right ingredient or enough variety.

“Our pantry shoppers really love the fresh fruit and vegetables! We have a garden which provides a lot of veggies, but only during the growing season. Having access to fresh fruit and vegetables year-round is really important.”

- Food pantry partner of cooperative member, Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin


Child hunger – addressing age, awareness and access

Reaching hungry teens

Hunger doesn’t stop at age 12. But for many children, that’s the age when some food resources at school such as backpack programs, free snacks and even our Food+You pilot, are no longer available. Connie Garling-Squire, Director of Early Learning and Equity for South St. Paul school district has been part of Second Harvest Heartland’s Food + You program through elementary schools and knows the difference it makes for families.

"Having worked with those two elementary buildings for that past year, it was breaking our hearts to watch fifth grade families moving into sixth grade and knowing that that support wouldn’t be there. We had really great responses and heartfelt stories about what a difference [Food + You] made. And for that support to just stop when you turn 12 didn’t make sense," Connie said.
For the first time, in the 2017-18 school year, Second Harvest Heartland’s Food + You program expanded their work to include a new segment of youth by working with high schools in the South St. Paul School district.

Summer food service program

When school lets out, thousands of young people in Minnesota become more concerned about where they’ll get their next meal than their summer plans. That’s where the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) comes in. At sites throughout the state, more than three million meals are provided to children during the summer.

Through two partnerships this year – with Metro Transit and in St. Cloud through the Yes Network, Second Harvest Heartland worked to address concerns about how kids, especially teens, are using the program. The partnerships help raise awareness of the free summer meals and reduce barriers like transportation. Even more importantly, it gave us the opportunity to get first-hand feedback from teens, an especially difficult group to reach.