Skip to main content

As coronavirus impact hits, Minnesota food shelves facing their biggest test yet

Food shelves and meal services are in desperate need of donations and volunteers.
Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.27.08 AM

Food shelves and organizations providing free meals to in-need Minnesotans are stepping up heroically to the challenge presented by COVID-19, but are in urgent need of more support.

That was the message on Tuesday from the leaders of three Twin Cities-based nonprofits serving low-income and vulnerable communities during the coronavirus crisis: Second Harvest Heartland, Loaves and Fishes, and CAPI in Brooklyn Center.

It comes after a 2-week period that has seen unemployment insurance applications rise to almost 250,000 in Minnesota as companies shut down in response to Gov. Tim Walz's community mitigation orders.

There has been a subsequent surge in demand at food shelves like those run by Second Harvest Heartland and CAPI, for free meals provided by the likes of Loaves and Fishes, and for help applying for benefits such as unemployment insurance and food stamps.

While they're able to cope for now, the pressure will increase the longer the pandemic continues, and all three are looking for donations in the form of money or volunteer time to help meet the demand.

"We need financial resources ... this is not a sprint it's a marathon," said Second Harvest Heartland CEO Allison O'Toole. 

"We've benefited from some state money recently, but that's a band-aid when we think of the long-term consequences of this crisis. We need continued help."

O'Toole said the organization helped distribute 1.3 million pounds of food last week alone, 350,000 pounds more than it did at the same time last year.

Furthermore, it has teamed up with Loaves and Fishes and local restaurants The Bachelor Farmer, Restaurant Alma and Chowgirls Killer Catering to launch the "Minnesota Central Kitchen," which is now churning out 30,000 meals a week using ingredients donated by currently shuttered restaurants.

A further 13,000 food boxes – providing basic supplies – have been distributed by Second Harvest, which is also providing assistance to help eligible, recently-unemployed Minnesotans to register for SNAP benefits.

Doing more with less

Loaves and Fishes meanwhile has seen a similar surge in demand for free meals at its 90 dining sites across 11 Minnesota counties.

In the last seven days, aided by the Minnesota Central Kitchen, it has served more than 114,000 meals.

This it has managed to do despite having to cut down the number of kitchen staff at each site from the usual 12-13 to just 3-4 due to social distancing precautions.

Volunteers are needed not just to cook and serve meals, but to also transport them to vulnerable populations who can't leave their homes due to COVID-19 risk, as well as working in food shelf distribution and warehouse facilities, helping supply shelves across the state.

This past weekend Loaves & Fishes' drive-up market handing out free meals and food boxes in Crystal generated a huge line of vehicles, as you can see below.

CAPI is based in Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, serving immigrant residents some of whom are not as able to find food assistance due to having no internet access, limited English, or due to a lack of mobility.

It has nonetheless seen more and more people come looking for help, now assisting 800 households per month, with executive director Ekta Prakash saying she has seen "a lot of fear and anxiety" in the Twin Cities' immigrant and refugee communities.

Among the help it needs is people who can make deliveries to seniors in isolation.

"We have a lot of need for volunteers, even if it's just one hour of driving around and delivering meals," Prakash said.

"I think we can defeat this crisis together, and it's very important we help people to stay home for longer."

How to help

You can find more information about volunteering or donating to the organizations mentioned above, and many more food shelf and free meal services, below:

Second Harvest Heartland

Loaves and Fishes 

CAPI

Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf

Community Action Center of Northfield

Community Emergency Assistance Programs

Community Emergency Services

Good in the ‘Hood

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc

Hugo Good Neighbors Food Shelf

Hunger Impact Partners

Hunger Solutions Minnesota

Intercongregation Communities Association Food Shelf

Keystone Community Services

Merrick Community Services

Neighborhood House

Neighbors, Inc.

Ralph Reeder Food Shelf

The Food Group

The Sheridan Story

Valley Outreach

Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People

White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf

360 Communities

Next Up

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 7.45.44 PM

Protest for Tyre Nichols to be held outside MN Governor’s Mansion

Activists groups say they’ll call on Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature to implement police reforms.

Pool

Minnesota pool contractor banned from industry, must pay $2 million-plus

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed suit against Charles Workman and his company, MN Crete Pools, LLC, in August.

Minneapolis police

St. Paul man identified as victim of north Minneapolis homicide

The shooting occurred on the 2200 block of Emerson Avenue North on Wednesday.

ambulance

Two youths seriously injured after being struck by driver in Bloomington

Police say the boy is in a critical condition, while the girl has severe injuries.

Rosedale Center

Two men sentenced for carjacking in Rosedale Center parking lot

Leon Kismit Bell, 49, and Jack Mitchell Piche, 23, were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Jan. 20.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 3.59.30 PM

Police identify White Bear Lake officer shot while serving warrant

The officer is a six-year veteran of the department.

abortion, planned parenthood

Minnesota Senate passes bill codifying abortion into state law

Having already passed in the House, it will now be sent to Gov. Tim Walz for signing into law.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 7.45.44 PM

Tyre Nichols: Initial police version of events bear similarities to George Floyd killing

Memphis PD said Nichols complained of 'shortness of breath' following 'confrontations' with police, who in reality violently beat him.

George Floyd, protest

Twin Cities authorities preparing for community reaction to Tyre Nichols video

The ATF division in St. Paul sent out an alert out of "an abundance of caution."

Related

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.27.08 AM

Coronavirus: Demand for food assistance doubles in Minnesota

Food banks are reporting double or triple-sized caseloads since the pandemic began

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.27.08 AM

Coronavirus: $12M in federal funds going to food shelves to combat hunger

Gov. Tim Walz revealed his plan to use coronavirus relief funds to combat hunger in Minnesota last month, and it has now been approved.

peanut-butter-sandwich-4546397_1280

Coronavirus: These Twin Cities restaurants are offering free food for kids

The restaurant industry is stepping up as schools shut down.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.27.08 AM

New data predicts Depression-era level of food need in Minnesota

The state's largest food bank says McKinsey & Co. projects need for food to peak in September.

Minnesota food shelves have a surplus because of the trade war

Retaliatory tariffs have seen more produce and meat diverted to food shelves.

JBS Pork

JBS USA announces closure of coronavirus-hit Worthington plant

The pork processing plant has seen a growing number of cases.

Cub Foods

Childcare workers to get their own ordering service from Cub Foods

It'll help them get the food and supplies they need to keep their services going.