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During pandemic, advocates turn to ‘Farmers Market in a Box’

Free boxes of fruits and vegetables, mixed dairy items and meat will be available Friday at Allianz Field
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This Friday, people can drive up to Allianz Field and receive 50 pounds of excess products from Minnesota farmers.

It’s the first installment of “Farmer’s Market in a Box,” created by Keystone Community Services, Second Harvest Heartland, Allianz Life and Minnesota United FC.

From 10 a.m. to noon, volunteers will distribute fruits, vegetables, dairy, chicken and pork to each car, with food for up to 700 households.

The event is planned to repeat monthly over the summer, said Jen Winterfeldt, director of development and community engagement at Keystone Community Services.

In addition, Keystone will be hosting similar events at different locations throughout St. Paul, Winterfeldt said.

With a shortage of restaurant clients because of the pandemic, farmers have been contacting the United States Department of Agriculture to report leftover products, she said. USDA then passes on the information to Minnesota’s largest food bank, Second Harvest Heartland, which has coordinated with food shelves for distribution.

Normally, Keystone and Allianz Field host Farmers Market-style events where people can pick up produce monthly each summer, beginning in July, when most Minnesota crops are ready.

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When the pandemic hit, organizers began discussing the box idea for later this summer. But after destruction hit grocers and other Midway businesses, Winterfeldt and her co-organizers decided to speed up the process.

“We were in conversation about how now more than ever, events like this are part of healing and a way to safely get food out to the community. So we all just kinda put our heads together and thought, can we pull this off?” she said. 

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