Headwinds for local food shelves
There are strong headwinds for local food shelves and hunger relief agencies. Inflation is at a 40-year high. Free school meals and other pandemic-era hunger and economic relief programs have ended. Visits to food shelves are on the rise.
Beyond distributing food to our partners, The Food Group strives to come alongside our 230-food shelf and hunger relief partners in this challenging environment with tools and resources to meet the needs of today while also building towards a stronger future.
The result is innovative partnerships and solutions to better serve our community. Here are a few of the ways, beyond providing food, that we are partnering with local food shelves to meet their needs.
Need: High-quality educational opportunities to train food shelf staff and enhance operations.
Solution: Educational workshops
As part of our quarterly agency meetings, which brings hunger relief agencies together to network and learn, The Food Group hosted two free educational workshops on topics selected by our partners including recruiting a more diverse volunteer base and incorporating storytelling into fundraising.
Need: Funding to expand food shelf infrastructure and capacity to meet the growing need.
Solution: $90k in Infrastructure grants to build capacity
The Food Group recently awarded 19 grants totaling $90,000 to local food shelf and hunger relief agencies — with a focus on smaller agencies with less resources. These grants are being used to expand their capacity by purchasing new refrigerators, expanding freezer space, adding more shelving, incorporating new multi-lingual signage, and increasing the variety of culturally familiar foods they are offering. The Food Group will offer a second round of grants later this fall.
“We used our grant to buy a commercial freezer, equipping us to store more food.“Tou Dy Lee, Director of NorthStar Health’s Community Basic Needs Program
Need: Opportunities to collaborate with and learn from peer hunger relief agencies to better engage communities using an equity lens.
Solution: Food Shelf Leadership Cohort Program
In 2022, The Food Group’s Food Shelf Leadership Cohort Program engaged five hunger relief programs who participated in educational opportunities and collaborated to identify innovative ways to better meet the needs of their community.
The outcome is stronger relationships amongst hunger relief agencies (representing rural, suburban, and urban communities) and setting innovative solutions into action. For example, one cohort member, YMCA’s Camp St. Croix, installed a hydroponic growing system. They are growing fresh produce to incorporate into camp meals and donating excess produce to their local food shelf.