1 in 10 people in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin experiences hunger.
It’s a startling statistic.
With the abundance of food facing us this time of year (holiday parties, cookie baking, potlucks, etc.), it can be easy to forget that there are too many people struggling to put food on the table on a daily basis.
Last week I had the privilege of attending an event at Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank in the Twin Cities.
At the beginning of the event, their Director of Development, Marketing and Communications gave us some background on the organization. Second Harvest is part of Feeding America, the nationwide network of more than 200 food banks. They serve 532,000 people each year, and 33% are under 18 and 10% are over age 60.
Then we took a tour of their 61,000 sq. ft. warehouse. It’s an impressive place!
They ship 9,800 boxes of food per month from this place and share food with 6 other food banks.
One of the most impressive things I learned on the tour is that 55% of the food Second Harvest distributed last year was fresh. They have been making great strides to get fresh produce out to people who need it. It’s great to know that people aren’t just getting food but good, nutritious food.
After the tour, we participated in a simulation called Hunger 101. We paired up and took on the personas of real people who have struggled with hunger. We were given bios and a budget. Our task was to figure out how to buy food for our family for one day. The simulation was timed to show some of the stress these families feel. Let me tell you, it was hard!
We were able to visit the bank to withdraw money, but our family only had $4 to take out. Then we could visit an office to see if we qualified for food stamps. The family I was part of was just two people and earned “enough” not to qualify for food stamps. That meant we still only had $4 to buy food for the day. Another stop we made was to the local food back where we received some food to help us out. After looking at our shopping list and budget, we went to the grocery store for our food. Due to our limitations with budget, we weren’t able to pick out the most nutritious food and didn’t hit the recommended amount of calories for the day. A really eye-opening experience.
I’m glad a place like Second Harvest Heartland exists in the Twin Cities to help families in need. They have an impressive operation and their programs are doing great things for the community.
A big part of their success depends on volunteers, so if you’re looking to give back, check them out!