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The Pandemic Pivot: Some “Out-Of-The-Box” Thinking Leads To A New Way To Fight Hunger!

May 6, 2021

(Photo: Volunteers from Old National Bank pack Food Boxes)

Even with hope shining on the horizon, the need for healthy meals continues to grow as families wrestle with a perpetual state of “new normal.” As many as 13% of Minnesota’s total population are food insecure or don’t have access to enough food.

A year ago, it would have been impossible to imagine what life is like today. So much of what was routine has become a bizarre “new normal” – from work and school to shopping and socializing.

As the pandemic slogs into another year, like so many individuals, businesses, and organizations, we’ve had to pivot to accommodate these unimaginable times. But at Meals From The Heart, we think on our feet and keep on our toes, so making this pivot is just another step to fulfill our mission of helping our neighbors. With meal-packing events greatly diminished due to safety and distancing guidelines, we know we had to find new ways to continue our mission and help those in need.

A new and respectful way to help.

Late last year, Meals From The Heart introduced an all-new Budget-Stretcher Food Box Program designed to help people struggling with food insecurity stretch their food budget. Our Food Box Program offers pre-packed food boxes filled with a selection of familiar and quality grocery items at substantial savings to anyone who asks for it. Like the meals packed at our meal-packing events, our new Budget-Stretcher Food Box program had to deliver a respectful product and experience to everyone who received it.

It’s not just about getting food to families. It’s about getting GOOD food to families. It’s what’s inside that counts. Our Food Boxes don’t contain past-date, damaged, or unwanted over-stock items. We don’t rely on inconsistent food donations. Instead, we seek out and purchase the right mix and variety of quality shelf-stable food items to create several healthy and flavorful meals. Our Food Boxes are valued at over $50 and even include cooking tips, recipes, and gift cards when possible. The boxes that we are currently distributing feature a $5 Kwik Trip gift card.

Reaching harder-to-reach populations.

We’ve all seen news stories showing lines of cars receiving boxes of food as access to in-person shopping at food shelves is restricted due to safety guidelines. While these are very worthwhile opportunities, many vulnerable families have significant transportation barriers making it almost impossible to take advantage of these food distribution events. Even public transportation isn’t a good option due to the need to walk potentially long distances with a heavy box. So rather than ask people to travel to get their boxes, we come to them. We developed a process and a dedicated team of volunteers to deliver the Food Boxes. People call in their box request, provide us with a bit of information, and we deliver the box to where they live –right to their door.

It’s hard to imagine silver linings emerging out of these times, but we think our Budget-Stretcher Food Box Program will help make the future a little brighter for many people. But, of course, the most encouraging and hopeful silver lining is the number of people who step up to help their neighbors. Yes, the need for healthy meals is a mountain we continue to climb, but we can achieve great things when we all work together.

A little help from our friends.

Thanks to these organizations that helped give our new Budget-Stretcher Food Box Program a great start: Kwik Trip, First Presbyterian – Stillwater, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures), Our Saviors Lutheran – Stillwater, E&E Andersen Foundation, Hennepin County, King of Kings Lutheran Church – Woodbury, Old National Bank, and Walmart. And many, many thanks to the volunteers and individuals who have made essential donations of time and money.

We’re also incredibly grateful to the founding members of our Big Heart Club. They are helping build a solid financial foundation to continue to help our neighbors – regardless of where we have to pivot next.

Please donate if you can to keep this great program rolling!