Monday, July 20, 2015

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless Announce Sixth Annual Food Shelf Challenge Grant

Summer is the hungriest time of the year for low-income children.  In fact 1,230 local kids living in the Grand Rapids area relied on food from Second Harvest’s Food Shelf in June.  Research shows that children consume up to 50 percent of their total daily calories at school during the school year.  Without that food, many low income families struggle to fill that gap.  That puts a lot of pressure on food shelves to keep up with the high demand during the summer months.

Second Harvest and Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless announce the Sixth Annual $150,000 Food Shelf Challenge Grant. Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless will proportionally match donations to Second Harvest Food Shelf during the month of July, up to $5,000. The more funds the Food Shelf raises in July, the larger the matching grant from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless will be. 

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless believes this approach to hunger alleviation is effective because it brings communities together to solve a growing concern across Minnesota.  The $150,000 Challenge will power a statewide initiative that leverages Open Your Heart funding to bring additional dollars to food shelves.  Since 1986, Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless has targeted millions of dollars to strategically fight hunger in Minnesota. Open Your Heart funds the purchase and transfer of more than one million pounds of fresh produce, meat and dairy products every year through Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

Hard working families turn to the food shelf when they really need to.  According to Desiree, a local mom who visited last month, “It really hurts your pride when you’re not able to feed your family, so you use whatever resources are available. With the help we get from the Food Shelf it makes a difference to get by and have one less thing to worry about.  I don’t think a lot of people could feed their families without it.”

It’s not just kids who are hungry in the summer.  The Food Shelf helps seniors struggling to get by on low fixed incomes, disabled adults trying to maintain independence, and working people whose paychecks don’t stretch far enough to make ends meet. 

Any donation made in July will help Second Harvest maximize the Open Your Heart July Challenge Grant and provide more food for hungry kids, seniors, and our struggling friends and neighbors.
For more information visit:

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank serves 115 hunger relief agencies in Koochiching, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties. Second Harvest distributed 4.8 million pounds of food and grocery products were distributed through our partner agencies in 2014. For more information regarding Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, visit or call 218.326.4420.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless has 29 years of experience as the only grant provider in Minnesota focused solely on alleviating hunger and homelessness. Open Your Heart helps food and shelter providers of all sizes get the resources they need to serve more people, including mattresses, freezers, fresh produce and roof repairs. They also support homeless students by providing school supplies, activity fees, gym shoes, tutoring materials and other essentials that help them engage fully in school.  For more information:


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Consider Donating Your Excess Produce

If you are or know a backyard gardener blessed with the sun, soil, rain and luck to give you more produce than you can use, please consider sharing it with your local food shelf. People who use food shelves are our neighbors who have fallen on hard times.

Food shelves will gladly accept produce from both organic and non-organic gardens.  Do not worry if your apples have some harmless blemishes, if the tomatoes are not yet perfectly red (they will ripen even after they are harvested) or if your red peppers are still green. If you would feed the produce to your family, it is perfect for the food shelf. Food that is spoiled, damaged, has insect holes, or burst skin should be put into your compost pile instead.

Produce can be dropped off at Second Harvest Food Bank, Monday through Thursday from 8am – 5pm and Friday from 8am – 12pm.  Morning drop offs are preferable as we can then give the perishables out that day. For more information, call Second Harvest Food Bank at 326-4420 ext. 25.

Earlier this week, Second Harvest Food Shelf customers left with not only food from the shelves, but with a variety of garden plants including tomato, cabbage, Swiss chard, purple cabbage, celery, and a variety of herbs to grow at home. Thank you to Beier's Greenhouse and Grand Rapids Greenhouse for their donation of plants that will help people experience growing and producing some of their own fresh and healthy food.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Farm to Foodshelf Grant Helps Farmers Make a Big Difference in the Fight to End Hunger

The six Feeding America food banks serving Minnesota are part of a surplus produce program with local farmers, Share Fresh Minnesota, which moves millions of pounds of excess produce out of the fields and delivers it to neighbors in need statewide. With the growing season in Minnesota upon us, we are excited to once again, promote the “Farm to Foodshelf” grant - an opportunity for farmers to donate excess produce to area food shelves this harvest season, thus helping to end hunger in our community. Made possible through a State of Minnesota grant, there are funds available for Minnesota growers to help offset harvesting and packaging costs for donating produce that would otherwise go unharvested or be discarded.

Through Farm to Foodshelf, we will collect and distribute more than 5 million pounds of fresh food in the first grant year, and in the coming harvest season we have the opportunity to collect and distribute even more food to our hungry neighbors. We want to thank the Minnesota growers who participated in the first year, and joined us in the fight to end hunger.

If you are a Minnesota agricultural producer or processor, you can donate through this program.  Produce must be “surplus that would otherwise go unharvested or discarded.” Edible and commonly used produce such as potatoes, sweet corn, cabbage, cantaloupe, onions, carrots, squash and others are welcome. Food must meet safety standards and be fit for human consumption.

Consider donating! For more information about how to participate, reimbursements for harvest and packaging for transfer, how donated excess produce gets from a farm to a food bank or food shelf and more, please call 877.547.0245 or email

Farm to Foodshelf is funded by the State of Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Day with Jess - Beast of Burden Challenge

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank recently received a visit from Jess Kurti, who is volunteering at all 200 Feeding America member food banks. She’s also running marathons in each state, but we got her to slow down long enough to tell us more about what she calls the Beast of Burden Challenge:
“My goal is to raise awareness about the existence and importance of food banking in the fight to end hunger. I aim to highlight the wide array of programs food banks provide. And emphasize how easily any individual can get involved in ending hunger,” states Jess.
“In addition, I would like to engage the running community about the importance of alleviating hunger. I’ve discovered that marathons and food banks have a surprising amount in common. No one knows the importance of nutrition for health, development, and performance more than a runner! (And a hunger fighter, of course.)  Not to mention, the absolute necessity of thousands of volunteers. No race would be remotely successful without the passion and dedication of so many volunteers. And operating a food bank without volunteers would be next to impossible.”
To this end, Jess came to  northern Minnesota to run Grandma’s Marathon and then to visit our food bank in Grand Rapids as part of  her quest to run a marathon in every state and to volunteer at every food bank in the Feeding America network.  She spent the day here doing a host of different volunteer activities which included repacking cereal and potatoes in the warehouse, watering donated tomato plants, and helping to wait on customers at our on-site food shelf.  Working directly with clients and the other food shelf volunteers to put food into the hands of people struggling to keep themselves and their families feed was a real highlight for Jess.
Jess and her Beast of Burden Challenge is an example of what one motivated person can do to help fight hunger in this nation.  There are a million good causes, but she found her passion was tied to people facing hunger and food insecurity, and she is crossing the nation to help out and get a close-up view of what is being done throughout the Feeding America network of food banks to combat hunger in our nation.
Jess is a warm-hearted and spirited one-woman show who found her own unique way to make a difference and get others involved in the fight against hunger. It was a pleasure and inspiration to have her here working beside us and also a very good day for her. Happy and safe travels for the rest of the journey, Jess, and congrats on all your accomplishments so far!
Ellen Christmas, Program Manager