When it comes to fighting hunger, the Twin Cities Salvation Army has never been busier. We’re opening more food shelves, serving more hot meals, creating new programs and striving to offer more nutritious food shelf items. What’s more, we’re in the early stages of developing new urban farming programs.
Below is a small sampling of how we’re working to end hunger.
The bulk of the 915,000 meals the Twin Cities Salvation Army served last year were dished up at our Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis and the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul, both of which serve hundreds of people a day.
Of our countless other hot meal programs, two are growing particularly fast. The first is the hot lunch program at the Eastside Salvation Army in St. Paul (pictured above). Two years ago, barely 100 people a day were showing up.
“Now it’s almost triple that,” said Dave Johnson, assistant social services director of the Twin Cities Salvation Army. “The other week we saw 270 people in one day. It’s getting to the point where we’re outgrowing the facility.”
The second is the Coon Rapids Salvation Army, which recently opened a new community dinner program with fellow hunger nonprofit Loaves & Fishes. The meals are offered twice a week by volunteers who not only cook the food, but also purchase it. When the program started in March, only a few dozen people came to eat. In June, that number was nearly 500.
Use of the Twin Cities Salvation Army’s seven food shelves has increased by about 50,000 families since 2007. In June, we answered by opening an eighth food shelf at our Maplewood location. Until it opened, the closest food shelf for Maplewood residents was in North St. Paul.
“Our new food shelf saves families time and travel expenses while providing them with the nutritious food they need to make ends meet,” said Major Jim Curl, Maplewood Salvation Army administrator.
Unlike most other food shelves, this one allows visitors to pick out their own food instead of taking what they’re given. “This model cuts waste by ensuring that our guests receive only the food that they truly need and will use,” Curl said.
That’s not the only way The Salvation Army is giving food shelf visitors the exact food they need. Through September, three local Salvation Army food shelves are offering Southeast Asian and Latino food baskets thanks to a grant from the Emergency Foodshelf Network.
The food is a blessing: The Salvation Army often purchases culturally-specific foods, but cannot buy enough because the food is too expensive. At the Eastside Salvation Army in St. Paul, for example, Asian foods such as noodles, rice, coconut and baby corn take up almost half of its monthly food shelf budget.
“We have a large Hmong population and getting enough culturally appropriate food can be hard – sometimes they have to give back the other foods we offer because their stomachs won’t take it,” said Eastside caseworker Ingrid Holt.
We are also looking to partner with local urban farmers willing to donate produce to our food shelves or share their knowledge with the people we serve. For more information call 651-746-3528.