How to Turn 50,000 Into 607,000
It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s food rescue at Second Harvest Heartland. The $50,000 is a grant from Wal-Mart, and the 607,000 are pounds of fresh food that four different food shelves can now distribute to their communities.
How do you multiply an investment 12 times? By adding things like coolers and wider doors to food shelves. How can something that simple help?
“Before we got the double doors installed,” said Jackie Lara, director of food and nutrition at Community Action Partnership of Scott, Carver and Dakota counties, “we couldn’t fit pallets through our single door. So when the deliveries came from Second Harvest Heartland, we would need to recruit five or more volunteers to dismantle the pallets and load the food on carts. This took hours and was even more difficult in bad weather!”
Now, with the double doors, they can take more food, more quickly. “Something that seems so insignificant really changed how we are able to complete our work,” said Lara. “It creates efficiencies, flexibility and options we never had before.”
“Hyper-local deliveries are the most efficient way to deliver food,” said April Rog, director of Food Rescue at Second Harvest Heartland. “Distributing the foods we collect on the same day we receive them reduces transportation and handling. That means foods arrive faster and fresher. We’re committed to connecting food to individuals that need it as quickly as possible.”
Retailers trust Second Harvest Heartland to train both store employees and local agency partners on food safety and handling, donation guidelines and accounting practices. Second Harvest Heartland and our agency partners have been able to partner with more stores, in more locations helping connect agency partners with donations that were difficult to access in the past like produce, meat and dairy items. Together, these partnerships and practices deliver one of the largest food rescue programs in the country.
How can we get even more fresh food into the community? Thierry Ibri, chief operations and program officer for Second Harvest Heartland, pointed to three areas of focus for the future of Food Rescue:
- Increasing the variety of food rescued from the grocery stores and other retail partners
- Adding new partners, both retailers and nonprofit agencies
- Expanding more into prepared food (e.g., from food service, catering, restaurants), using an app called MealConnect (funded by General Mills; built by Feeding America). Through the app, a hotel that prepared 300 meals for a wedding where only 200 people showed up, for example, can quickly post a picture of the food available, and then local meal program partners or food shelves can opt in to pick it up.
“Plus,” Ibri added, “when our new West Campus facility is fully functional in Brooklyn Park, we’ll be able to take more donations from farmers and grocers who have fresh produce, even without an agency that can immediately take it. With more capacity in our coolers, we can keep food fresher and safe for longer, so our partner agencies can order it when it makes sense for the needs in their community.”