Hunger in the Suburbs, and One Food Shelf’s Fight Against It
While hunger may seem more visible in urban areas, hunger lives in all communities. Today, hunger in suburban areas is growing faster than ever. It serves as a unique challenge, and Ralph Reeder Food Shelf in New Brighton, Minn. is taking it on, especially when it comes to kids and their families.
“The population we serve have not recovered from the recession. Being in the suburb—your jobs are more limited to retail, lower paying. Public transportation is underdeveloped,” Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Program Manager Lisa Baker said. “I think the population we serve has just not seen those benefits of the recovery.”
The struggle to find nutritious food touches the lives of working families, seniors and children, and Lisa regularly meets hardworking parents who hesitate to seek help, but ultimately do what’s best for their kids.
“We happened to have a couple of single fathers who are trying to raise their kids by themselves in situations that make things challenging for them, like loss of jobs, medical issues for their children,” Lisa said. “One gentleman came in the other day, and he’s new to navigating the hunger system. We sat down with him, and by the time he left here, he felt a lot better—he could prepare a whole meal for his kids he could feel good about.”
He said to her as he was leaving, “You guys have been the most helpful of anyone—I didn’t know I could come here and get help with so many things.”
Ralph Reeder Food Shelf is one of the 2018 Hunger Heroes, the first Agency Partner to receive this award. From the beginning, Ralph Reeder Food Shelf has rooted in their community through Mounds View Public Schools, prioritizing ending hunger for kids and their families.
“The thing that makes us a little more unique is that we are a school-linked model,” Lisa said. “A lot of our programs are focused on kids, including a holiday gift program, “Schooltrition” and weekend snack packs to help that kid bridge the gap during the long weekend where they don’t know if they’ll have enough food.”
Picking the 2018 Agency Partner Hunger Hero Award recipient was difficult, as our nearly 1,000 food shelf and meal program partners make such an important difference all over our 59-county service area. Ralph Reeder Food Shelf stood out because of their work with child hunger, but also with a transformative year in reaching more families with more fresh produce:
“I like being able to think creatively about the needs in the community,” Lisa said, “and how best to meet those needs. There are so many ways to think about getting food into hands of people who need it most—getting healthier foods in the hands of people too.”
“We’re very thankful for Second Harvest Heartland’s partnership,” Lisa added. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without it.” The same is true from our perspective—we couldn’t do the work we do without our agency partners like Ralph Reeder Food Shelf!