Helping the Hungry and Homebound
Bless you. It’s two words Breanne Nelson, manager of the Anoka County Brotherhood Council (ACBC) Emergency Food Shelf, hears often.
“We have a program that delivers food to homebound individuals, mostly seniors, a few times a month,” Nelson explains. “These are people who are physically unable to come to the food shelf who otherwise wouldn’t get the food they need. They are so wonderfully grateful for the delivery of nutritious food.”
According to Nelson, who worked at a domestic violence shelter prior to coming to the food shelf in 2015, transportation is the biggest barrier people face when it comes to getting the food they need. ACBC pairs homebound individuals with volunteers who assist with everything from the application process to providing a menu of food options, including fresh produce provided by Second Harvest Heartland’s Food Rescue Program, to scheduling deliveries. Then, a few days ahead of delivery, volunteers phone the individuals to remind them of when their food will be arriving.
Last year, ACBC served more than 32,000 individuals, and the need is slowly increasing. Nelson said food delivery isn’t always the most ideal option for people, sometimes it’s the only option.
“We encourage people to try to get someone—a friend, a neighbor—to visit the food shelf for them because they can get much more food in terms of volume and variety here, but for people with medical conditions and senior citizens living on their own that’s just not an option,” she said.
In a perfect world, Nelson said she’d love to have a mobile food truck or pop-up food shelf that brings food directly into underserved communities because transportation to the food shelf is a barrier for most of her clients, not just the homebound.
“I think mobile food shelfs will be the next big thing for us, but logistically, we’re not there yet,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what the future brings. There is definitely a big need.”
Awareness, according to Nelson, is yet another barrier to getting food to hungry people.
“In Anoka County, some people don’t want to acknowledge that we have a problem with hunger and homelessness,” she said. “People think it’s only a big-city issue. It’s not.”
It’s also not just an issue for adults. Nearly 40 percent of ACBC’s clients are under the age of 17. As soon as schools close for the summer, the food shelf sees a spike in demand.
“We see many more families with kids coming in over the summer,” she said. “We actually provide extra bags of kid-friendly food for them. Most of these bags are prepared by youth groups, so it’s kids packing food for kids, which is really cool.”
Access to summer food programs are vital for kids who rely on free or reduced meals during the school year. Second Harvest Heartland helps connect families to summer meals served under the USDA Summer Food Service Program, to help ensure that all children are fed during the out-of-school summer months.
Through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS), Second Harvest Heartland provides a box of nutritious food each month to low-income seniors 60 years and over.
If you think you may be eligible for CSFP or know someone who may require assistance, please call 651.484.8241 or toll free at 800.365.0270 for more information.