A Place Where Everyone is Welcome
Today, while the economy in the heartland is booming and food is abundant, one in 11 people do not know where their next meal is coming from—or if it will come at all. Elizabeth was once one of those 11. Last year, she went through a rough period in her life. She was in-between jobs with two children to care for. Her husband worked full-time but didn’t make enough alone to pay for their rented townhouse and put food on the table. So, Elizabeth did something she never imagined she’d have to do: she applied for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly food stamps).
“I used to think that people who needed help were lazy or just didn’t work hard enough,” Elizabeth admitted. “But now I understand. There’s no shame in asking for help.”
Elizabeth, who lives in Woodbury, is working again and no longer needs as much food assistance to feed her family, but she still visits the fresh produce distribution at the Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf (CCEFS) in Oakdale, Minn., to supplement her food budget.
The produce distribution is one of many that happen throughout the summer and fall in response to a demand to provide our neighbors experiencing hunger, of any kind, with more access to healthy, fresh food.
Cindy Klatt is the mobile food shelf coordinator for CCEFS. She said that she’s noticed more of a demand for healthy foods since she started working at the food shelf as a volunteer in 2010.
“We served 280 families in September at our fresh produce distributions,” she said. “In addition, through partnering with Second Harvest Heartland to receive more fresh food rescue each week, we served 426 families during the month of September in our Wildcard Wednesday food distribution program!”
Klatt said she thinks more and more people are realizing how important it is to have a healthy diet.
“The problem is that fresh produce, meat and dairy products are expensive to purchase in the store, especially if you have a large family to feed,” she said.
Klatt hopes that the produce distributions, which are open to all community members regardless of their income, will break down barriers and welcome people in.
“We want people to see that the food shelf isn’t so scary,” she said. “This is a place where everyone is welcome.”
The food shelf will continue to offer fresh produce and other nutritious food throughout the year on Wednesday mornings.
“We’re calling it ‘Wild Card Wednesday’ because every Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m., we’ll offer different food items, from produce to meat to prepared sandwiches,” Klatt said. “We’ll have a little of everything, and everyone is welcome.”
Klatt is thankful to be part of the solution, and said she believes everyone on the planet has a right to eat fresh, healthful, nutritious food.
“Our customers are people just like me and you who happen to be experiencing circumstances that prevent them from being able to put food on the table.”
The Fresh Produce Distribution Partnership season begins in June and runs through late October, with July, August and September being the most active months. As of Oct. 1, more than 100 distribution events were held in the metro area and beyond, which equates to an estimated 400,000 pounds of fresh produce distributed to 10,000 families so far this season. Nearly 40 percent of those served were children.
Christian Cupboard was one of the first agency partners to join this special incentive program—now a cohort of 18 — to encourage partners to add seasonal produce distributions to their food programs. Now in their fourth season, they have built fresh produce distribution into a sustainable program.
Second Harvest Heartland works with nearly 1,000 partner food shelves, pantries and other meal programs every day to reach the one in 11 Minnesotans who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Learn more about our partnerships and how you can help.