The Changing Face of Hunger

April 17th, 2014

Hungry people are everywhere in your life – from the single mom down the street to the friendly clerk at your local convenience store. A surprising number are doing something they never imagined – visiting one of our agency partner’s food shelves for the first time in their lives.

Senior citizens, struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income, are a growing segment of food shelf visitors; they are often reluctant to “take food from younger people they feel need it more than they do,” says Margaret Palan of Western Community Action in Marshall.

Suburban residents are falling into poverty as they find their resources dwindling. “Many families are transitioning and struggling with job loss,” says Ann Searles, who has seen a large increase in visits to White Bear Lake Area Emergency Food Shelf.

Working families visit Oak Park Youth and Family Center in north Minneapolis for food and community meals. “Many visit us late in the month, when their cash and SNAP resources run low,” says Debra Chavis.

College students at Ridgewater Community College use weekly food pickups to augment their limited resources. “Students who are far away from their families need us the most,” says Christie Kurth of the Willmar Area Food Shelf, which operates the campus pantry.

To find ways you can help, visit

You’re Invited to Dish: Cuisine for Change

April 16th, 2014


Join us on Thursday, May 29th for the 11th annual Dish: Cuisine for Change, presented by Cub Foods. This fun and impactful evening includes gourmet cuisine from local chefs, exciting auction items and live entertainment from Frank Caliendo, a hilarious comedian known for his countless uncanny voice and physical impersonations.

Purchase tickets today, host a table and enjoy exclusive benefits or, if you can’t attend, make a matched donation.

For more information visit

Volunteering Outside of the Box

April 14th, 2014

When you hear about volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland, you likely envision energetic assembly line style packing, labeling and sorting food. But this is only one piece of the puzzle—there are actually more than 20 different volunteer opportunities requiring a variety of interests and skills.

In 2013, volunteers contributed more than 130,500 hours of service to Second Harvest Heartland. A quarter of those volunteer hours were contributed through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) program and Target Meals for Minds. Volunteer opportunities range from registering clients for services to delivering food to homebound seniors to distributing groceries and more.

Long-time volunteer Roberta Swanson can be found each Friday organizing the cooler and assisting CSFP clients with bringing food to their cars at our Maplewood location. When talking about why she volunteers, Roberta is filled with emotion, “Hunger is something I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced, so it’s very humbling. I’m happy to provide them with food, a smile and hello. People are so thankful and all I’m doing is bringing a few bags to their car.”

Hillary Frazey, Meals for Minds volunteer, describes volunteering as rewarding. “I enjoy interacting with the families and seeing how all of the pieces come together to get them food,” says Frazey.

Move to More Fresh Food Resonates in Hunger Relief

April 11th, 2014

The growing need
Americans are increasingly focused on our peas and carrots. From healthier school lunches to farmers markets, we as a nation are more conscious of the link between nutrition and health. That awareness is reflected in the evolving emergency hunger relief system. Second Harvest Heartland is working to collect and distribute more fresh and nutritious food than ever. Last year, we collected more than 5.9 million pounds of produce from over 50 different growers, and continue to expand our Retail Food Rescue program.

Second Harvest Heartland, and food banks across the country, are in conversation about how to best balance agency partners’ high volume needs for food of all kinds with an increased focus on fresh foods.

We go where the food is
Along with a network of generous partners, Second Harvest Heartland spent the last two harvest seasons successfully piloting ways to capture agricultural surplus in Minnesota—tapping into the more than 200 million pounds of corn, peas and potatoes that go unharvested every year due to weather and other issues.

The sweetest success so far has been our sweet corn rescue project. In collaboration with Hunger-Free Minnesota, Cargill, Seneca Foods, Pinnacle Foods Inc., General Mills, C.H. Robinson, SUPERVALU, other growers and a team of Feeding America food banks, 860,000 pounds of sweet corn were rescued and delivered to food banks in Minnesota and across the country.

That success led to a partnership with Feeding America to form the Second Harvest Heartland-based Produce Capture Institute (PCI) to share best practices across the Feeding America network to build agricultural surplus collection and distribution capacity.

An apple a day
When clients visit the VEAP Food Pantry in Bloomington, Minn., they appreciate receiving fresh produce, according to Nathan Rust, VEAP food program manager. “Many individuals tell us that if apples and other fresh produce items weren’t available at the food shelf they would simply have to go without as they have trouble affording them at the local stores. Many individuals that we serve deal with health issues and access to healthy fresh produce is essential for their nutritional needs,” says Rust. Second Harvest Heartland distributes food to VEAP.

Food is Fundamental: For Hungry Kids, Food Means Fuel for Academic Success

April 9th, 2014

Food can change the way kids learn and has a positive effect on their health and academic success. As principal at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul (where 98 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch), Nancy Stachel observes,

“Kids who are hungry don’t sleep well, and by noon they are acting out and quick to anger. They are less likely to concentrate, and over time that impacts achievement.”

Her observations are supported by The University of Minnesota Food Industry Center’s Cost/Benefit
Hunger Impact study
that links hunger with child’s cognitive and physical development. Hunger costs Minnesotans between $1.2 – $1.6 billion annually in direct and indirect healthcare and education costs.

To battle hunger and promote learning, Maxfield Elementary partners with Second Harvest Heartland on hunger relief programs including a Target Meals for Minds mobile pantry that distributes groceries to families of students enrolled at the school and serving as a meal site for the Summer Food Service Program, a USDA program operated by the Minnesota Department of Education.

In Minneapolis, Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary Services for Minneapolis Public Schools, took his hunger solution on the road. Using Community Close-Up research – developed through Hunger-Free Minnesota by The Boston Consulting Group – he identified high-need, low-resourced areas beyond walking distance to summer meal sites serving nearby high-need children. He then converted an old school bus into a food truck, made possible through a Summer Food Service Program grant from Second Harvest Heartland. The truck visited four new sites in those low-resourced areas on its daily summer route.

“Going mobile was the best way to reach kids who might be missing meals during the summer, and keep them energized and ready to learn again in the fall,” says Weber.

1,000,000 meals
Number of meals the Meals for Minds mobile school pantry program has distributed at 11 schools in the Twin Cities since 2010. Meals for Minds, (supported through funding from Target) sets up grocery distribution sites at high-need elementary schools across the Twin Cities monthly during the school year for families of children enrolled at the school.

$800 annually
The cost to each Minnesota family of allowing people to go hungry, based on total health and education consequences inflicted when our neighbors miss meals.

Source: University of Minnesota Food Industry center’s cost/Benefit Hunger Impact study

Thank You for Volunteering!

April 7th, 2014

In celebration of a fantastic 2013 – and a wonderful start to 2014 – Second Harvest Heartland would like to say a huge “thank you” to all of the volunteers that supported our efforts over the last year.  Your dedication and energy in support of our mission to end hunger never ceases to amaze us!

In 2013, volunteers contributed more than 130,500 hours, the equivalent of 65 full time staff members; this effort helped us distribute 65 million meals.  No words can fully express how grateful we are for you, and we aren’t the only ones that want to thank you.  This National Volunteer Appreciation Week, our agency partner programs also want to share a few words about the direct impact your time has had on their programs and getting more food to our hungry neighbors in need.

“The Pierce County Food Pantry, Ellsworth, Wisconsin, appreciates the long, difficult hours that Second Harvest Heartland employees and volunteers give, so that our client families can have better food security.  We wouldn’t be able to help our hundreds of client families, if it were not for your work.  Second Harvest Heartland volunteers really make a difference.”
-Ron J. Campbell, Ellsworth Food Pantry

“We appreciate all of the help we receive from Second Harvest staff and volunteers.  We want to thank all of you for helping to make our jobs easier!”
- Jerri Loughry, ACBC Food Shelf

“The Manna Food Pantry, Inc. in Worthington, MN would like to thank all of the many volunteers that spend many hours helping at Second Harvest Heartland. We cannot thank you enough for all of your hard work, which is helping us fill our shelves for the many families we serve. THANK YOU!”
- Linda Sanchez, Manna Food Pantry, Inc.

“Thank you for your willingness to volunteer your valuable time to pack and re-pack all the items coming into Second Harvest. We at the CEAP (Community Emergency Assistance Programs) food shelf in Anoka County really appreciate getting the food delivered to us in smaller quantities to serve our clients. CEAP is also a distribution site for the MAC & NAPS program. This is such a great program for low-income seniors and mothers, it depends on hard working volunteers to make it happen.  Again thank you very much.”
- Lois Perkins-Huff, Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP)

“We would like to say a big “Thank You” to Second Harvest and their volunteers for all they do to make our mission of hunger relief more effective. The volunteers provide a service that makes a positive difference in the lives of our clients. Thank you for your care and support.”
-The Open Door, Formerly the Eagan & Lakeville Resource Centers

“Thank You to all of the volunteers who repackage our food. We appreciate it!”
- Braham Area Food Shelf

Thank you, again from all of us!  You can find new ways to volunteer with us by visiting

Meet Our 2014 Hunger Heroes

April 3rd, 2014

We are pleased to announce the recipients of our fifth annual Hunger Hero Awards, an award created to honor and recognize organizational partners who make a compassionate and transformational impact on those who are hungry in the heartland.

Last year, more than 600,000 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin were at risk of missing a meal on any given day. But as the demand for emergency food increased, so too, did the generosity of many of our charitable partners, six of whom demonstrated extraordinary leadership in meeting the unprecedented demand for food. It is these six partners that we honor this year with our Hunger Hero award, a seal of appreciation designed to publicly acknowledge those who contributed the most by way of food, funds, hours, ideas, awareness and more.

Hunger Heroes are recognized in six categories, each of which is critical to our work and all of which must work in tandem to collectively achieve of goal of ending hunger. This year’s award recipients and categories are listed below, and each will be featured here throughout the month, so make sure to stop back!

Thanks to all of our heroes in the fight against hunger!

Volunteer: Target
The partner with the largest impact on operational productivity via donated time and labor.

Innovation: C.H. Robinson
The partner with unique vision and volume delivery of a program or product.

Financial: General Mills
The partner with the leading financial impact on hunger relief organizations.

Awareness: Pioneer Press
The partner generating outstanding visibility in delivery of programs.

Food: Svihel Vegetable Farm
The partner with outstanding value and volume of donated food.

Food Rescue: Walmart
The retail partner with outstanding contribution to the “rescue” of food.

You can see all of this year’s Hunger Heroes here or read the full Annual Community Report here.

Celebrate National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

April 2nd, 2014

Today is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day! One half of this classic sandwich, peanut butter, is an essential item that helps provide the balanced nutrition especially important for children, seniors and those with health challenges.

pbj Fun Facts

Celebrate National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day with us by starting a Food & Fund Drive today to collect the ingredients necessary for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other items on our most needed items list. Your support will help provide balanced, nutritious meals to those in our community that need it most.

A Message from Our CEO

April 1st, 2014

How important is having enough food to eat? It means living healthily to help fight against chronic disease. It means being more mentally focused and able to learn and succeed in school or at work instead of worrying about your next meal. Food is a solid defense against important issues the world throws at us, and we are proud that Second Harvest Heartland is on the front lines of getting more food to those who need help with this important bridge to stability.

Last year, we introduced a new tagline: “Food Changes Everything”™. These words sum up not only the essence of what we do at Second Harvest Heartland, but also how food brings hope. We believe food lifts people out of hunger as well as despair. Our mission is to end hunger through community partnerships such as those we have with thousands of donors, volunteers, agency programs and organizations such as Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks. And by staying true to our values that guide how we operate—including our approach that “We are all in this
together”—we are making progress on our goal of ending hunger right here in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

If you’re already supporting Second Harvest Heartland with donations of dollars, time or food, I thank you for partnering with us in this crucial work. If you haven’t had a chance to help us defend our community against hunger, I hope the stories in our Annual Community Report, published last week in the Pioneer Press, will inspire you to join us.

- Rob Zeaske, Chief Executive Officer

Second Harvest Heartland Releases Annual Community Report

March 31st, 2014

As a supporter of Second Harvest Heartland, you know hunger is more prevalent than ever before right here in our community. But, you are making a bigger impact than ever before—a very positive impact that can be seen and felt in many ways by many people.

Like last year, we published our Annual Report in the form of a Community Report in the March 30th edition of the Pioneer Press. The following pages feature special sections from this Community Report, and offer a look inside what you helped us accomplish in 2013.

You’ll find facts and figures about our efficiencies, feature stories of partners who helped fuel important hunger relief innovations and leadership and the stats that matters most: the number of meals you’ve helped us provide to our neighbors in need.

You’ll also find the stories of some individuals and corporate contributors who truly went above and beyond in 2013, including this year’s Hunger Hero award winners.

Thank you for your important contributions during a difficult time for so many people. As you read about our results on the following pages, we hope you will take pride in being a crucial part of these successes.

Read the Annual Community Report here.

Agency Partner Spotlight of the Month: Oak Park Youth + Family Center

March 27th, 2014

At Pillsbury United Communities’ Oak Park Youth + Family Center, a Second Harvest Heartland agency partner, food is more than an essential human need—it’s a way to build community, interact and get to know neighbors.

“Oak Park is a place for youth education and afterschool programs, but we learned that many of our children were not receiving nutritious meals at home,” said Center Director Debra Chavis. “We began serving dinner in the evening before youth went home. Eventually we invited parents and siblings, which then led to regular food distribution and a focus on culturally appropriate foods.”

Community and holiday meals at Oak Park have become a regular occasion for working families who are trying to make ends meet. The meals help them meet their basic needs, but also feel part of a caring community.

Youth Café is Oak Park’s newest innovation and includes cooking classes and an intergenerational meal with community members, one Saturday each month. Oak Park’s goals for the youth range from sharing information about healthy foods, teaching the life skills of shopping, cooking and budgeting for meals, as well as motivating youth to get involved in food justice issues. Kids work alongside master chefs to plan and cook the family-style meal. They also grow herbs, flowers and vegetables in the Oak Park garden to sell to local restaurants and chefs. With the motto of “Youth-led and Youth-fed,” kids and visitors eat together, discuss topics such as barriers to healthy eating, and take pride in feeding their community.

“On Youth Café day, kids do something good for the whole community. It’s a day full of positive energy,” said Debra.

Get in Gear With Second Harvest Heartland This Spring!

March 25th, 2014

Get in Gear, Minnesota’s annual rite of spring, is fast approaching—and now is the time to register to run a 2k, 5k, 10k or half marathon on Saturday, April 26!

For 37 years, Get in Gear has drawn thousands of racers to Minnehaha Park each spring and raised more than $110,000 for Second Harvest Heartland. Learn more or register at Encourage race supporters to donate to Second Harvest Heartland in honor of your team at Designate a runner or race team, and your donation will be matched by Get in Gear, up to $10,000!

We hope to see you there!

Have No Doubt: Volunteer Opportunities Abound at Second Harvest Heartland

March 20th, 2014

At Second Harvest Heartland, there are more than 20 ways to volunteer.

With so many opportunities, you might have concerns about picking the one that really fits your talents, schedule and commitment. Here are three doubts we know give pause to even the best would-be volunteers:

Doubt 1: I can’t make an ongoing commitment

We know that our volunteers are busy students, professionals and parents (sometimes all three in one!) with plenty of other commitments. We truly appreciate your time, and invite you to volunteer with us whenever it’s convenient for you. When you sign up for any of the shifts on our convenient online calendar, there’s no expectation to sign up for a weekly, monthly or any sort of ongoing commitment. Even if you can only volunteer once, your time will provide one person enough to eat for a full month!

Doubt 2: Some of the shifts have room for 100 people, but I can only bring five

Although we welcome groups of up to 100, individual volunteers and small groups make up most of the shifts at Second Harvest Heartland. Your group doesn’t need to fill the entire shift—you can leave that to us. Besides, half the fun of a shift at Second Harvest Heartland is working alongside your neighbors and learning about the many families, teams, companies, school and faith groups that come together to support our mission to end hunger. And every contribution adds up: last year, 27,000 volunteers gave nearly 130,000 hours of their time!

Doubt 3: I feel like packing food will make the biggest difference, but that’s not what I want to do

Every volunteer’s contribution to Second Harvest Heartland is valuable. Many volunteers provide vital help without ever setting foot in the warehouse. So before you start feeling guilty that food sorting just doesn’t do it for you, try something else! There are plenty of one-time opportunities to get involved at fundraising events, Meals for Minds distributions and off-site food drives.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to sign up for a volunteer shift, visit

Hunger Affects Us All

March 17th, 2014

One hundred million missing meals leave no doubt: hunger is more prevalent than ever before, right here in our community.

Today, 1 in 10 of our neighbors is at risk of missing a meal on any given day.

The face of hunger isn’t the person you might expect.

She is the widow down the street, struggling to survive on her fixed income. He is the young man on your son’s basketball team whose mother is working 60-hour weeks just to make ends meet. They are our neighbors, our friends, even our family members—they are our region’s hungry and they need our help.

Watch the video below and meet some of the people you are helping through your generous support.

Give today at

Cheers to Summit Brewing Company for Five Years of Support

March 17th, 2014

Cheers to Summit Brewing Company for their five years of generous support. Their simple but powerful act of accepting food donations on behalf of Second Harvest Heartland has resulted in 25,000 pounds of food collected—enough to provide nearly 20,000 meals to hungry families in our community in their five years or partnership. And last month, a group of Summit employees—including Summit’s President Mark Stutrud—volunteered with us for the first time.

As the need for food assistance continues to increase in our community, Summit’s generous support of food donations and volunteer hours is crucial. Sincere thanks to the entire Summit team for their generosity and support of our hunger relief efforts.

Summit Brewing Company makes our community a better place to live, work and play, and we can’t thank them enough.

Photo credit: Summit/Stegmams

Help Outnumber Hunger with General Mills and Sam’s Club

March 12th, 2014

With summer approaching, Second Harvest Heartland and area food shelves are preparing for an increase in demand for food assistance from clients during the summer months. These families often rely on free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch to help feed children during the school year, and may have to rely on assistance from food banks to help fill the gap.

That’s why the Outnumber Hunger campaign, a national initiative that helps fight hunger in local communities through partnerships between companies such as General Mills, Feeding America and Big Machine Label Group, is so important. During last year alone, Outnumber Hunger helped Feeding America secure more than 6 million meals!

This year, Sam’s Club is partnering with Feeding America to secure an additional 1.5 million meals for member food banks through Outnumber Hunger.

There are three ways you can help:

  • From March 12-24 text “HUNGER” to 80153, then enter your zip code so the donation is made on behalf of your local food bank. You’ve secured 12 meals.
  • Visit your local Sam’s Club store and purchase specially marked General Mills products. Codes can be entered through January 2015 at You’ve just secured 12 more meals.
  • Members can also donate food at their local Sam’s Club in the donation bins through March 24. This food will be picked up after March 24 and help those in our neighborhood.

Participate at your local Sam’s Club, and help provide more meals for our hungry neighbors.

Spring into Action by Volunteering

March 11th, 2014

The snow is beginning to melt and the official start of spring is right around the corner. We’d like to celebrate by inviting you to spring into action by volunteering with Second Harvest Heartland! Join us at one of our unique event volunteer opportunities in April and May and help make a difference to those in need, right in our community by giving the gift of time.

Get in Gear 5K, 10K and Half Marathon
Friday, April 25th, shifts from 12 – 4 p.m. and 4 – 8 p.m.
Come enjoy some beautiful spring weather while volunteering at the 37th annual Get in Gear run at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis! This annual rite of spring has raised more than $100,000 since 2006 for Second Harvest Heartland. This year, Get in Gear will match donations to Second Harvest Heartland, up to $10,000, to help us feed our neighbors in need. Volunteers will work with Get in Gear and Second Harvest Heartland Staff at the runners’ check-in station to hand out runner packets and numbers.  Sign up for a shift today.

Opportunities Coming SoonStampOutHunger Volunteers

Stamp Out Hunger (the nation’s largest single day food drive)
Saturday, May 10th
Participate in this year’s 22nd annual National Letter Carrier Food Drive, by placing a bag(s) of non-perishable food donations at your mailbox, or volunteering with Second Harvest Heartland to staff collection sites throughout the metro.  Last year volunteers helped load more than 800,000 pounds off food from the letter carriers onto trucks for distribution from Second Harvest Heartland.  Volunteer shifts will be available online soon!

Dish: Cuisine for Change
Thursday, May 29
Second Harvest Heartland’s premier fundraising gala will return for the 11th consecutive year to raise awareness of hunger in our community through good food, a great sense of community and a little comic relief. Volunteers assist in a variety of rolls including making gift bags, setting tables, and assisting with registration and the auctions.

Sign up to volunteer for one of the events listed above or any of our ongoing opportunities, like Meals for Minds or food packing.  Go online to or contact us directly at 651.282.0901.

How Food Gets to our Hungry Neighbors

March 7th, 2014

Our agency partners (food shelves, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs) continue to experience high need for food and, while we are distributing twice the amount of food that we did five years ago, the demand continues to rise. Second Harvest Heartland has responded by tapping a vast network of resources to find new sources for food donations and by achieving economies of scale when food is purchased. By carefully stewarding food, volunteer time and donations through ever-more efficient operations, we turn every dollar donated into $8 worth of food and grocery products, and 96% of donations go directly to our programs.

Here is how food gets to our hungry neighbors:

Support Your Local Food Shelves in the March Campaign

March 5th, 2014

As the need for food assistance in our community continues to grow, your help is needed now more than ever. During the month of March, you can make a direct impact on your local food shelves and hungry neighbors through Minnesota FoodShare’s March Campaign.

For more than 30 years, Minnesota FoodShare, a program of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC), has coordinated the largest food and fund drive in the state, called the March Campaign. The campaign brings together thousands of families, companies, faith communities, schools and civic groups to raise a significant percentage of the annual food distributed by its recipient food shelves.

Food shelves rely heavily on the food and funds that come in during the March campaign—this year, the campaign is expected to raise half of the food that local food shelves will distribute in 2014.

To get there, we need your help. Food and financial donations are the easiest way to give, and all donations will go directly to local food shelves.

To find a food shelf near you to support, click here or call 651.291.0211. Or, if you’d like to support Second Harvest Heartland with a financial contribution to help us secure more food for our food shelf partners, click here.

Thank You for Making Vintner Ball a Success!

March 3rd, 2014

On behalf of all of us at Second Harvest Heartland and those we serve, sincere thanks to the individuals, hosts and sponsors who made the ninth annual Vintner Ball a tremendous success. This year, participants helped raise more than $200,000 to support Second Harvest Heartland—enough to provide more than 740,000 meals to those in our community who count on us for support. Thank you!

Photo credit Tom Dunn Photography