Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

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.

Volunteer Spotlight of the Month: Hunger Study Volunteers

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Every four years, Feeding America and its network of member food banks coordinate a landmark study assessing hunger across the nation. The data collected from the study, called the Hunger Study, is then used to inform hunger-relief strategy, programs and important policy decisions.

Volunteers play a critical role in the success of the Hunger Study. This year, two interns and 21 volunteers contributed more than 850 hours to survey more than 440 of our hungry neighbors throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The volunteers visited 94 of our agency partner programs in 34 counties. Together, they drove over 10,000 miles—enough to travel across the United States three times!

Michelle Foster, a Hunger Study volunteer, worked on the study because she’s interested in the link between nutrition and public health. “My role as a lead data collector was to put people at ease, be respectful of their time and explain the survey and the technology,” Michelle said. “When I explained that the survey could forecast future hunger relief program needs, people were excited to participate and make a difference.”

She added that her opinion about people who use food shelves was “totally blown out of the water.” “I talked to people who had no safety net and lost all their food because of storms,” she recalls. “I talked to young people, elderly people, people who were using the food shelf for the first time and people of all ethnicities. It changed the way I think about people and hunger.”

Mary Cripe, another Hunger Study volunteer, learned about the opportunity to help from her employer’s monthly volunteer email. She said meeting agency clients was inspiring to her. “There are many people in need, and I liked meeting and talking with them firsthand. We are all together on the front lines of hunger relief,” she said.

Thank you to all Hunger Study interns and volunteers! Your support will directly impact hunger relief for years to come!

Behind the Numbers: Our Warehouses

Friday, September 20th, 2013

If you’ve ever visited one of our warehouses before, you’ve likely seen the hustle and bustle of staff, heard the beeping of forklifts or received instructions from a production associate about a volunteer task.

Second Harvest Heartland collects and distributes hundreds of thousands of pounds of food every day, and our warehouse team members play a crucial role in this process. Since 2009, we have doubled our warehouse capacity to increase efficiency and productivity. Our East warehouse in Maplewood is our main distribution center, and our West warehouse in Golden Valley is our new service center. Learn more about our two warehouses and their respective functions below.

East (Maplewood): Our distribution center.

  • This 68,500-square-foot warehouse houses most of the food we collect. The distribution center is comprised of three departments with 46 team members—the distribution center, transportation and maintenance.
  • The East warehouse contains dry storage, refrigerated and freezer space as well as areas for receiving, sorting and re-packing reclamation and community food drive donations.
  • The distribution center moves an average of 800,000 to 900,000 pounds of food every week.
  • This facility manages a fleet of 49 tractors, straight trucks, trailers in support of both the distribution and Food Rescue programs that average a total of 13,000 to 18,000 miles weekly.

West (Golden Valley): Our service center.

  • March 2012 marked the opening of our new west-metro facility, Second Harvest Heartland West. Located at 6325 Sandburg Road in Golden Valley, our new building replaced our old service center in northeast Minneapolis and now houses all the functions and activities that took place there—sorting, packing and labeling food.
  • The service center is comprised of four departments with eight employees—agency shopping, shipping/receiving, maintenance and production.
  • Each volunteer repacks an average of 290 pounds of food per shift.
  • One truckload of bulk potatoes can be processed and repacked in two three-hour volunteer shifts.

Thanks to the hard work of our distribution and service center team members, we are doing more now than ever to close the missing meal gap.

Glow In the Night for Hunger Relief

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Glow In the Night 5K is coming to Minnesota for the first time and is proudly supporting Second Harvest Heartland. Join us for a glowing night of fun, while helping bring food to the tables of your hungry neighbors in need. During the race, you will get completely covered in “glowrific” color dust with family and friends at night, under the soft glow of black lights.

At the end of the 5K run, enjoy the after party with food, music and of course, more color.

Early bird registration ends September 20, and volunteer opportunities are available. To register today or for more information, visit

Race Details:
Glow In the Night 5K
Friday, October 4th
Race start time: 7:00 pm
West Park, White Bear Lake

Latest Edition of Stories of Hope Now Available

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Check out our newest edition of Stories of Hope, the Second Harvest Heartland newsletter. In this issue you’ll find:

  • How people across the nation can step up and join the fight against hunger in our communities as part of Hunger Action Month.
  • How the BBE (Belgrade, Brooten, Elrosa) Area Food Shelf is providing food to its neighbors in need and making a huge impact on hunger relief in Minnesota.
  • A sneak peek at our new convenient, simple and fun Virtual Food & Fund Drive page, where you can help feed hungry people in your community right from your computer.
  • How the General Mills Giving Garden has been a fruitful way for General Mills to expand its tremendous support of Second Harvest Heartland.
  • And much more!

Creating Art, Eliminating Hunger

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Photo courtesy of Tom Henry Photography

Last year, we were excited to tell you about Amber Waves, Tom Henry’s landscape art installation nestled within the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis this summer.

We’re happy to report that Tom is back at it this year with a new installation, “The Golden Curve.” Henry worked with the Metropolitan Airports Commission to plan and plant wheat and sunflowers for the project, sponsored in part by a grant from the General Mills Foundation. Nearly 400 bright yellow sunflowers and fields of golden, flowing wheat are now visible to passengers taking a light rail train near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America.

“Sunflowers and wheat are natural together and with the wheat now baled in between the rows of sunflowers, it looks a bit like a European landscape,” Henry says. “It takes the train about 10 seconds to round the bend, so I like to think of it as 10 seconds in Tuscany.”

The visual entertainment will eventually come to a close with an end-of-season harvest planned to help feed those in need through food shelves in the Twin Cities area!

Our wide network of partners, volunteers and donors are what make the wheels of Second Harvest Heartland turn, and we couldn’t be more excited and thankful for Tom’s creative and charitable project!

Going Orange for Hunger Action Day

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Today, Second Harvest Heartland staff joined hundreds of members of our community by going Orange” for Hunger Action Day, raising awareness for the prevalence of hunger in Minnesota.

The number of Minnesotans who struggle to put enough food on the table remains at its highest level since the government started counting two decades ago. In Minnesota and western Wisconsin, one in 10 people experience the stress of hunger on any given day even though there is enough food available to feed everyone. We’re using Hunger Action Month during the month of September to raise awareness of this problem in our service area and urge people to join the fight to end hunger.

There are many ways for you to get involved this September: raising awareness, volunteering, and collecting food and financial donations; we hope you won’t choose just one. For more information on ways to fight hunger, visit

Hunger Action Month: Together We Can Solve Hunger!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

September is Hunger Action Month across the country. As a member of Feeding America‘s nationwide network of food banks, we’re asking you to support Second Harvest Heartland and those we serve by taking action to raise awareness about the problem of hunger in our service area.

With more than 600,000 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin at risk of missing a meal on any given day, it’s more important now than ever before to help.

No action is too small when it comes to ending hunger!

Double Down Challenge will Double Your Impact
Help us hit our goal of 10,000 volunteer hours during the month of September. Every hour you volunteer for Second Harvest Heartland will be matched with a $5 donation from Bremer Bank, up to a total of $50,000! That’s enough to provide 185,000 meals to our neighbors in need! Learn how you can take action at

Go Orange
September 5th is National Hunger Action Day. Show your support by wearing orange on the 5th, and all month long.
- Virtually: dedicate your Facebook and Twitter to hunger awareness for the month. Check out our Facebook page for ideas.
- Physically: Light your home or workplace orange.

Create Awareness
- Take: the SNAP challenge and live on the average daily SNAP benefit of $4.50 a day.
- Learn: the facts about Hunger in Minnesota and share it with friends.
- Display: our “30 Ways in 30 Days” calendar at work, in your home, and throughout your community.

Take Action
- Host: a Food & Fund Drive.
- Volunteer: for a three-hour shift to feed a family of four for a week, or take a look at our featured volunteer opportunities to see how you can make an even deeper impact in one of our hungry neighbor’s lives.

There are many ways for you to get involved this September; we hope you won’t choose just one. For more information on ways to fight hunger in September, visit

Area Kids Get VIP Access to Vikings Training Camp

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Thanks to the Vikings Children’s Fund Summer Lunch Program, 41 kids got VIP access to the Vikings Training Camp on Wednesday, July 31. The kids, from the Watonwan County Youth Development, got on the field to view the Vikings practice, played in the Kids Zone, danced with mascot Viktor the Viking and enjoyed a nutritious lunch. But perhaps the best part of the day was when Vikings players Cullen Leoffler, Jarmarca Sanford and Matt Asiata stopped by to sign autographs.

The Vikings Children’s Fund Summer Lunch Program helps secure more meals for Minnesota children ages 1 to 18 each summer.

We’d like to offer a big thanks to the Minnesota Vikings’ leadership for all you do to support hungry kids in our community!

Preview 2013 Canstruction at the Minnesota State Fair

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

If you’re heading to the Minnesota State Fair this year, make sure to stop by The Agriculture Horticulture building to see colossal sculptures built from thousands of ordinary cans of food. The sculptures on display are from past Canstruction competitions, the annual creative and competitive event that pits together teams to design and build sculptures out of canned food to benefit local food banks.

Learn more about this year’s Canstruction event, scheduled for October 5-7 at the Mall of America, here.

Community Outreach Programs: Helping Our Neighbors in Need

Monday, August 19th, 2013

More than 600,000 people in Minnesota are hungry, and visits to food shelves have doubled in the past five years. As the demand for food assistance continues to rise, Second Harvest Heartland is working not only to collect and distribute more food to our neighbors in need, but also by investing in community outreach programs that help increase food security for the hungry.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach
One in three people who qualify for SNAP (formerly called food stamps) don’t access their benefits. Our team of outreach specialists break down barriers through screening and applications assistance, helping connect more people with more food in their time of need.

Meals for Minds School Pantry Program
With funding from Target, we distribute food at schools in high-need areas across the Twin Cities each month during the school year through Meals for Minds. Families can receive groceries for each child enrolled at school.

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
During school, approximately 375,000 Minnesota children received free or reduced-price meals. But when summer arrives, only about 20 percent of these kids continue to access similar meal programs. To fill this gap, we team up with the Minnesota Department of Education to help connect kids with summer meals.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
Each month, we provide a box of nutritious food to income-eligible women, children and seniors 60 years and over, through the Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS) and MAC (Mothers and Children).

Find more information on the programs above or how you can become involved by contacting Second Harvest Heartland here today.