Volunteers Deliver Food to Meal Programs in New Pilot
Since 2017, Second Harvest Heartland has used a special app called MealConnect to capture prepared food donations. Engaging a wide variety of donors including caterers, restaurants, bakeries, corporate and school cafeterias, and event centers, we’ve been able to get fresh food quickly to those who need it most through agency partners who collect and use the donations. It’s a highly effective and streamlined program, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Although demand to engage in MealConnect is high, a recurrent barrier for smaller meal program partners is a lack of staff, time, and transportation resources to respond to the opportunities to collect donated food,” said Dianne Wortz, Food Rescue emerging streams developer at Second Harvest Heartland.
To overcome this challenge, Second Harvest Heartland is participating in a Feeding America pilot created to solve the transportation barrier for smaller meal programs through a volunteer delivery model.
“With the help of our Volunteer Services team, we were able to recruit and train 15 community volunteers to help us retrieve meals and deliver them to smaller programs,” Wortz said.
Volunteers are trained in food safety and equipped with coolers, infrared thermometers, and clipboards to log food temperatures. When a smaller donation (less than 60 pounds) comes in from a restaurant, caterer or other donor, MealConnect sends a text to the volunteer pool. The volunteer then goes to the donor location at the specified time, checks and logs the temperature of the food, packs it in the cooler, and checks in on the MealConnect app indicating the donation has been collected.
Hope for the Journey Home (HJH) is a shelter for families experiencing homelessness for the first time. Located in Oakdale, Minn., HJH is a ministry of Guardian Angels Catholic Church and St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and more than 30 churches in Washington and suburban Ramsey counties. The shelter has been a part of the MealConnect pilot program since February.
“For a small shelter like ours, it’s been invaluable,” Trish Brokman, director of HJH said. “If we had to find volunteers to pick up the meals, it would be very hard. We just don’t have the people.”
HJH prides itself on serving fresh, wholesome food to the many families it serves. Since HJH has started participating in the pilot, the shelter has received donations of fresh, organic sandwiches, healthy chili, salads and cottage cheese.
“Sometimes we have as many as seven families and 25 people to feed,” Brokman said. “We’re committed to feeding them healthy and unprocessed food as much as we can and MealConnect certainly makes that easier.”
Since the pilot began in February, MealConnect has collected and delivered more than 6,000 pounds of prepared food to ten different meal programs and agencies through a dedicated group of volunteers.
The MealConnect app 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.