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.”
“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 2harvest.org/November.
Please help Second Harvest Heartland help more people like Endurance and Dwight by giving today at 2harvest.org/donate.