Prepared food in commercial kitchen

How Haven Housing Gives Food a Second Chance with Food Rescue

Haven Housing is an emergency shelter and supportive housing program that serves women and women-led families in Minneapolis. As a meal program partner of Second Harvest Heartland, Haven Housing utilizes donations of excess food from restaurants and grocers to provide meals and snacks for their residents each day.

"At our Ascension Place community, we serve 32 women who live here," explained Michael Weiler, Haven Housing's food services manager. “For breakfast [the residents] can have whatever they want to eat, but we prepare meals both for lunch and dinner.”

To create these meals, Michael and his staff depend on donations of surplus prepared food from local businesses. Known as prepared food rescue, the process involves accepting donations of already-cooked food from restaurants, caterers and schools that would otherwise end up in landfills. To find this food, Haven Housing uses MealConnect, an app that links businesses with extra food to nonprofits that can use that food. Haven Housing’s chefs are experts in repurposing these rescued foods into delicious, balanced meals for their residents.

“Yesterday we got stuff from Target Corporation downtown and they sent grab-and-go stuff and a chicken dish. So, what we do is we will use everything that we can,” explained Michael. “We check everything and make sure it's good, then we just piece it out. The sandwiches we'll either put in the resident fridge and they just grab them just like they would at Target or we'll serve them on trays.”

Along with accepting donations of prepared food, Michael works with Second Harvest Heartland’s retail food rescue team. Retail food rescue is our largest source of donated food. Last year, Second Harvest Heartland worked with more than 500 retail stores, which collected nearly 40 million pounds of food. Most mornings, Michael visits one of their grocery store partners to collect unsold but perfectly edible and nutritious produce, meat, bakery, dairy, shelf-stable and deli items.

Around 75% of the food Haven Housing utilizes in their kitchens comes from these prepared and retail food rescue partnerships established through Second Harvest Heartland. By utilizing food rescue, Haven Housing is also contributing to creating a more sustainable world. By saving food and providing nutritious meals to hungry neighbors, they are reducing the environmental impact of wasted food in our community.

“Agency-wide we're very conscientious of everything that we do,” said Michael of the organization's commitment to sustainability. “We always talk about rescuing food and it sounds silly, but to us it means something different. We're not only saving so much money, but we're just saving so much waste.”

Learn more: Find out more about the benefits of food rescue and follow Haven Housing on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Funding for prepared food rescue provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).