Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

$2 Million in Legislative Funding To Provide More Fresh Produce to Hungry Minnesotans

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Two million dollars will provide more fresh vegetables and fruits to our neighbors in need, thanks to a new program that will pay growers their costs to harvest donated fresh produce that would otherwise go unused. Second Harvest Heartland led the six Feeding America food banks that serve the state, with support from Hunger-Free Minnesota, in seeking legislation to create this program, through the “Farm to Food Shelf” bill. Chief authored by Representative Jeanne Poppe of Austin and Senators Matt Schmit of Red Wing, Lyle Koenen of Clara City and Kent Eken of Twin Valley, and co-authored by a bipartisan group of 45 legislators from around Minnesota, the bill’s new money will be instrumental in moving millions of pounds of food to eligible food shelves and other meal programs statewide within the next three years.

More than 1 in 10 Minnesota families are food insecure—meaning they lack sustained access to the food needed for a healthy, productive life. Food insecurity is highest in rural Minnesota and the Twin Cities urban core, and for seniors and young families with children. More than 40 percent of those served by Minnesota food shelves are children.

“Second Harvest Heartland sought this legislation because we are committed to pursuing innovative ways to bring more healthy and nutritious food to our hungry neighbors,” said Rob Zeaske, Second Harvest Heartland CEO. “The need is still high in our communities, and we look forward to working with generous growers who want to donate food out of the ground but need help with costs related to ‘picking and packing.’ “

In advocating for this bill over the past 5 months, Second Harvest Heartland received strong support from the Minnesota cluster of Feeding America food banks—including Channel One in Rochester and Second Harvest Northern Lakes in Duluth—and from Hunger-Free Minnesota. Hunger-Free Minnesota’s data showing missing meals by census tract in each legislator’s district proved highly motivational to legislators.

“Hunger in Minnesota is often hidden, but this data and the efforts of many supportive legislators brought hunger into view,” said Zeaske. “Hunger is the largest solvable problem in Minnesota, because we already have the food to solve it.”

Update on Our Community Outreach Programs

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

We support a number of programs that connect hungry people with resources that increase their food security.

Meals for Minds School Pantry Program
With funding from Target, we distributed nearly 510,000 meals at 11 schools in high-need areas across the Twin Cities through Meals for Minds this year. Since the program began, more than 1.2 million meals have been distributed.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach
One in four people who qualify for SNAP (food stamps) don’t access their benefits. This year, our team of outreach specialists screened more than 11,500 households and successfully assisted and submitted more than 3,000 applications, helping connect more people with more food in their time of need.

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
This program fills the missing meal gap during the summer months for kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. This year, nearly 300,000 meals were served in targeted outreach neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a 10 percent increase over last year. Second Harvest Heartland supported SFSP by building community awareness to increase participation and by providing capacity building grants to meal site sponsors.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
Through this program, we provide a box of food monthly to income-eligible seniors through government food programs. This year, we opened 10 new distribution sites, and continue working to better serve underrepresented areas in the metro area and greater Minnesota.

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Legacy Gift: Wanda Lorentzen

Wanda Lorentzen had a very independent spirit and was a life-long learner, with over 1,200 books in her personal library. She was also very generous and cared deeply for helping those around her and from afar–hosting many foreign exchange students from all over the world.

When Wanda learned of her terminal illness in 2011, she had a discussion with her sister, Deb Gerber, on how to establish a long-term commitment to helping those in need in her community. According to Deb, Wanda decided that food was one of the basic human needs she wanted to support and selected Second Harvest Heartland as the organization she most trusted with her bequest.

Deb is very proud of her sister. Not only for the thoughtful way Wanda planned her Legacy Gift, but for also pursuing her value of independence by taking the steps to self-direct her Legacy while she was still with us.

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Event: Dish: Cuisine for Change

For the 10 years that our annual gala, Dish: Cuisine for Change, has been bringing the community together to help end hunger, Stephani and Jim Tikalsky have only missed attending one year.

After receiving an invitation in the mail for the second annual Dish nine years ago, they attended their first event, and were hooked.

Dish’s unique, fun atmosphere, along with Second Harvest Heartland’s hunger relief work, has brought the Tikalskys back year after year. Stephani has also served on the Dish auction committee for the past six years.

“It’s a great way to spend an evening—good food, drink, auction items and entertainment—and you can feel good about helping make a difference. There’s something powerful when you look around and see all the restaurants who have volunteered their time and food, the volunteers who have worked to make the evening a success, and all the attendees who have come to support a worthwhile cause. It’s exhilarating,” said Stephani.

Buy your Dish tickets today at

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Individual Giving: Jim and Kathy Gelder

Like many of our generous donors, Jim Gelder was first introduced to Second Harvest Heartland through a United Way workplace giving campaign while working for ING Minneapolis. According to Jim, ING’s commitment to investing in the community was a catalyst for his own dedication to helping others. “It established a bond to Second Harvest Heartland,” said Jim.

The bond grew over time. Jim found opportunities to share his passion of hunger relief, including a tour of the Second Harvest Heartland warehouse in Maplewood with his ING colleagues and then visiting the Golden Valley facility with his wife.

“(My wife and I) both have seen firsthand how Second Harvest Heartland does what it does,” said Jim. Retirement has since transported Jim and Kathy to their new home in Arizona, but they continue to support organizations that build strong communities, like Second Harvest Heartland, as well as a food bank in Arizona.

“We’ve developed a heart for feeding people,” said Jim.

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Family Foundation: Hognander Family Foundation

From childhood, Orville “Joe” Hognander Jr. says his parents instilled in him a commitment to helping others. He recalls his mother telling him “we must help those less fortunate” and handing him coins to give to disabled WWII vets asking for money on the streets. Moments like these, Joe says, reflect the principles on which he was raised.

Today, through the Hognander Family Foundation, Joe carries on his parent’s legacy of helping others by supporting organizations that strengthen communities. “Second Harvest Heartland serves a crucial role in this effort by providing food to those who need it and it’s important to support this work.”

In addition to being a convenient way to give, Joe believes family foundations, like his at The Minneapolis Foundation, involve the whole family in philanthropy and are a way to pass on family values to younger generations.

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Corporate Engagement: Bremer Bank

Bremer Bank’s long-standing, nearly 10-year partnership with Second Harvest Heartland includes many levels of support, but its generous $50,000 match to inspire the community to volunteer and support hunger relief during Hunger Action Month through the Double Down Challenge, was especially inspiring.

Nearly 3,000 people raised their hands to take on this challenge and provided more than 9,600 hours of service; 1,500 of which were brand new to Second Harvest Heartland. Their hours of
service turned on more than $48,000 of the match providing 178,000 meals.

“Hunger is an issue that impacts many families in Bremer Bank communities,” said Greg Hilding, Bremer Bank Group President. “Our employees are passionate about strengthening our communities, and supporting Second Harvest Heartland during Hunger Action Month was a great way for Bremer to demonstrate its commitment to work with other community leaders to end hunger.”

Getting Involved: How Partners Are Investing Their Support to Help us Reach our Goals

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Sponsorship: The Mosaic Company Foundation

More than 6 million meals—that’s how many meals The Mosaic Company Foundation has helped provide to our neighbors in need through its generous support of our Give to the Max Day
fundraising efforts. For the last three years, The Mosaic Company Foundation provided $100,000
in matching funds—encouraging thousands of people in our community to donate to Second
Harvest Heartland and other charities on this inspiring day of online giving. Last year, more than 2,400 donors contributed to Second Harvest Heartland, the largest number of unique donors in a single day yet.

“Mosaic seeks partners with a track record of creating innovative and impactful programs, which is why Mosaic has chosen to work with Second Harvest Heartland. Give to the Max Day is a great opportunity to inspire the entire state of Minnesota and beyond to make a difference in the communities in which they live and work,” said Chris Lambe, Senior Director, Social Responsibility, The Mosaic Company.

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

Wednesday, 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.

$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

A Message from Our CEO

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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.

Hunger Affects Us All

Monday, 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

How Food Gets to our Hungry Neighbors

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

Agency Spotlight of the Month: Western Community Action

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Margaret Palan, Community Resource Coordinator for Western Community Action (WCA), knows the difference a friendly voice can make to someone who’s hungry.

“This is personal for me,” Margaret said. “I visit senior apartments, community and senior dining sites, engaging people in conversations to tell them the many ways they can access food programs. This helps people feel comfortable getting past the stigma of asking for help. I always like to mention that federal dollars such as the Farm Bill help fund some of these programs. Somehow they feel better about accepting the help after learning where the funds come from.”

Margaret’s role is to refer people—many of them seniors, who are making do on small social security payments while living on their farms—to food shelves, community dinners and other resources such as SNAP (food stamps) and commodity distributions that can help bridge the gap when resources get tight. “Seniors who live in our rural area would rather ‘make something out of nothing’ than be a burden on anyone,” Margaret said.

WCA is responsible for four food shelves (Marshall, Tracy, Westbrook and Heron Lake) that serve five counties in western Minnesota. WCA food shelves distributed nearly 723,000 pounds to their clients this past year. Poundage includes product ordered through Second Harvest Heartland, rescue food program with local markets, and local food drives.

While the needs of the many communities WCA serves vary from one location to the next, a consistent focus for every community includes meeting basic needs of food and clothing. Dedicated volunteers are critical in all areas that allow WCA to continue to serve clients.

“We help one person at a time, and assure them that they don’t have to be hungry,” Margaret said. “We are here to teach, provide opportunities, tools and hope as a pathway out of poverty.”

Partner Agency Spotlight of the Month: Stanley-Boyd Area Food Pantry

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Every organization has its high and low periods, and the Stanley-Boyd Area Food Pantry in Stanley, Wis., is no exception. After two decades in operation, the pantry shut down in 2012 after no volunteer came forward to serve as its director. However, by calling former volunteers and visiting a local restaurant to hand out notes to morning coffee drinkers, community leaders were flooded with volunteers willing to lead the food pantry, and now it’s back in business!

The pantry serves more than 80 families, and operates out of the basement of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stanley, where clients benefit from expanded food choices and a larger, more comfortable distribution area. Local youth groups and approximately 50 volunteers now assist in unloading the semi truck, setting out food on distribution days each month and cleaning up. The pantry is a member of the Feed My People food bank in Wisconsin, which is supported by Second Harvest Heartland. “There was an amazing response to our call for help,” says Kristy Vircks, administrative assistant at Our Savior’s and a board member of the food pantry. “We are overflowing with volunteers.”

After the food pantry reopened last year, the Weekend Kid’s Meal Program expanded to serve more than 130 kids through 12th grade. Middle and high school students “shop” for food in a designated pantry room at the high school to protect confidentiality. Food items for younger children are packed by students with disabilities, and placed in children’s lockers to take home in backpacks at the end of the day. “Thanks to the communities of Stanley and Boyd for their support and the many volunteers that make these programs work,” says Kristy.

The Changing Face of Hunger

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Endurance, a 19-year-old community college student, studies to be a nurse. Dwight, a worldly 62-year-old truck driver who has also worked as a stage hand with national rock bands, has been looking for work for more than a year. One sees her entire life in front of her, while the other sees a lot of life, talent and hard work left in him yet to give. Both live in Twin Cities suburbs and neither expected to ever use a community food shelf, but they are part of an increasing trend of suburban poverty in the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area and across the country.

Last May, the Brookings Institution—a Washington, D.C., think tank—released a study entitled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America that ranked the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area as ninth in the nation in terms of growth of suburban poverty. According to the study, the number of suburban poor living in the Twin Cities area increased from 89,895 in 2000 to 204,901 in 2011. That 128 percent increase greatly outpaces the study’s national average increases for poverty growth in the suburbs (53 percent) and inner cities (23 percent).

To meet the growing requests for services, Second Harvest Heartland has increased its food distribution during the last five years by 84 percent (34.7 million pounds) to better support its agency partners as they have expanded their offerings. People of all ages are using programs geared to meet their needs within their suburban communities.

Nourishing Hungry Young Minds
Every two weeks, Endurance, a sophomore at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn., visits the campus food pantry where she obtains a bag full of single-serve foods, snacks and beverages.

Driven by a partnership between the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf, Century College Foundation and Second Harvest Heartland, the Century College Food Pantry was introduced as a pilot program during spring 2013, distributing 3,261 pounds of food to 315 students in need. In addition, during finals week, fresh fruit was also offered to help fuel students for their exams.

This is just one example of the increasing need the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf has experienced. According to Executive Director Ann Searles, the food shelf, which serves 15 surrounding communities and assists 300 families/1,000 individuals per month, has experienced a 9 percent increase in service demand during the past 18 months.

Through Second Harvest Heartland’s Food Rescue Program, Searles’ organization offers 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of fresh produce per week. “Clients are grateful for food,” she says, “but especially for fresh produce such as strawberries, apples and lettuce.”

Senior class
“I used to be an old crab,” says Dwight. “Now I’ve gotten to where I like everybody. Coming here has made me a better person.”

Dwight is just one of the 700 senior clients served monthly—and one of the 800 volunteers—at Fruit of the Vine food shelf in Burnsville, Minn. The organization, which primarily serves Dakota County, offers assistance and a network of caring people through its seniors program, which it established in 2010.

During the past year, Fruit of the Vine has experienced 65 percent service growth for seniors, compared with 2012. “One of the big issues with seniors is lack of hope,” says Fruit of the Vine Executive Director Brian Geraty. “They are on a fixed income which, in many cases, is diminishing. Because we treat people with respect and dignity, and give them a community to be a part of, we give them hope.”

Geraty adds that Second Harvest Heartland has helped them double their overall service capacity during the last four years. “On average, we now distribute 138,000 pounds of food to 2,100 households per month,” he says.

Looking Ahead with Optimism
As the face of hunger continues to change, Second Harvest Heartland will continue to support its agency partners in their efforts to help more of our hungry neighbors. “For the college student, a bag of food can make a huge difference in their life,” says Searles. “For the family who’s transitioning and struggling with job loss, your support allows them to stay in their homes and strive to get back on their feet. Our grateful clients, students and senior population have a full stomach of food, and are then able to find success in whatever goal they are working toward.”

To watch related video segments with expanded content, visit

Please help Second Harvest Heartland help more people like Endurance and Dwight by giving today at

Be A-Mazed!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Thanks to Scott and Barb Wardell of Montgomery, Minn., for their creative donations to Second Harvest Heartland. The Wardells are partnering with General Mills to use their Jolly Green Giant corn maze, called the Be-A-Mazed Corn Maze, as a food drive for Second Harvest Heartland. General Mills will donate one pound of food for every pound donated by visitors to the six-acre maze. Faribault Foods will donate a second pound for every donation.

According to the Wardell’s, it takes about 85 minutes to navigate the corn maze that’s three football fields long and formed in the shape of the Jolly Green Giant. The maze is open weekends through October 27.
For more information and to see more pictures, visit

The Wardells have been long time donors of surplus apples and Scott has been a strong supporter and advisor in the development of our Harvest to Home program. Thanks to the Wardells for their creative contributions to help us fight hunger in our community!

Fight Senior Hunger in October

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Eighty-thousand Minnesota seniors struggle with hunger every day. At Second Harvest Heartland, we work to reduce senior citizens’ risk of food insecurity and hunger to benefit their health, nutrition and general well-being. That’s why we’ve teamed up with UnitedHealthcare and WCCO-TV again this year to help our older neighbors realize that there are programs available that can help them get the food they need.

Throughout the month of October, you’ll see PSAs and other promotions on WCCO-TV that will encourage seniors and their caregivers to connect with resources like food shelf locations and information, congregant dining and transportation options and more.

Hunger is a fact of life for many older Minnesotans, and thousands do not know where they’ll find their next meal. We’re fortunate to have great partners in UnitedHealthcare and WCCO-TV to help raise awareness about the issue of senior hunger, and connect those in need with the programs and resources that can help.

For more information on senior hunger and to find local resources, click here or visit Hunger Solutions website.