Filling the Nutrition Gap for Families in Crisis
Every year, Casa de Esperanza—a 12-bed shelter in the Twin Cities—works with hundreds of Latinas and their children seeking refuge from domestic violence. The organization provides court advocacy, transitional housing and emotional support, in addition to family advocacy, community engagement and youth initiatives to the Latino community. An essential component of the support they provide to the Latina women and their children in Casa de Esperanza’s shelter, El Refugio, is nutritious meals.
Yet providing nutritious meals was often a struggle.
Beth Baynes has been facilities coordinator for Casa de Esperanza for 22 years.
“We were unable to take advantage of low-cost or free food because it came in quantities too large for our small shelter,” she said. “We would have to purchase these items at retail cost to provide them to our residents.”
This is an issue faced by many smaller food shelves and meal programs who want to provide nutritious foods to their clients while operating under tight budgets, which is why Second Harvest Heartland teamed up with Loaves & Fishes to become a redistribution center to metro meal programs. These programs include homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters like Casa de Esperanza, and after-school programs. The new Loaves & Fishes distribution center, called The Hub, is up and running and open for ordering 24/7—it’s where Casa de Esperanza now gets all their fresh produce.
“Our partnership with Loaves & Fishes has made a significant impact on our meal program,” she said. “We are able to order and pick out any item in any quantity. We have been able to get fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, potatoes and many varieties of fresh fruit on a weekly basis. It is perfect for a small shelter like ours.”
Another advantage to Loaves & Fishes becoming a redistribution hub for Second Harvest Heartland is less food goes to waste.
“We can pick out what we will use for a week and not have to worry about food going bad before we could use it,” Baynes said. “We have also been able to take advantage of the fresh pre-made sandwiches and salads that are recovered from MSP airport. Our residents love the convenience of the sandwiches and salads, as they are able to pack them in lunches for work or school or just grab them on the go.”
Since participating in the food redistribution pilot program, Baynes has been able to significantly cut Casa de Esperanza’s food budget and put the money they’re saving to use in other under-funded areas of their operation.
The feedback from residents, according to Baynes, has been overwhelmingly positive. Finding and preparing a meal at the end of a long and stressful day, she points out, is just one less obstacle they must tackle.
“It may not seem like a big thing,” Baynes said. “But being able to take a little bit of stress away from someone who is dealing with some big life issues can mean a lot to that person.”
This is just one example of how Second Harvest Heartland and its partner agencies are implementing innovative new ways to feed a greater number of hungry families. Learn more about who and how we help.