Minneapolis, Minnesota (PRWEB) January 29, 2014
Hunger-Free Minnesota (http://www.hungerfreemn.org) announced that with partner organizations its data-driven initiatives have contributed 49 million meals to those who are hungry in Minnesota since it funded its first initiative/grant in January 2012.
The coalition has invested more than $6 million in 80 innovative hunger relief projects across the state. Programs receiving support range from mobile food pantries to a large-scale agricultural surplus initiative that rescued nearly 1 million pounds of sweet corn. Hunger-Free Minnesota’s key initiatives aim to fill 60 million total meals from Minnesota’s 100-million meal gap. The statewide meal gap was established based on research that showed 600,000 food-insecure Minnesotans miss an average of a meal every other day, a total of more than 100 million meals each year.
Partners in the strategic, data-driven campaign include: not-for-profit organizations including Feeding America food banks, local food shelves and meal serving programs, business partners and Federal and state government agencies. Major contributing partners include General Mills, Cargill, UnitedHealth Group, The Boston Consulting Group, Hormel Foods, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, The Frey Foundation, Robbin and Kristine Johnson, Minnesota Public Radio, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Midwest Dairy Council, Land O’Lakes, Seneca Foods, SUPERVALU and Birds Eye Foods. These organizations not only provide funding for sustainable initiatives, but also provide strategic consulting, data analysis, logistics, marketing and other operational expertise.
“We are committed to increasing capacity in a sustainable way and to investing in innovative pilot programs that will improve the lives of our neediest citizens,” said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota. “Food insecurity costs more than $1.2 billion each year in this state and it is a problem we have the power to solve. There is enough food in Minnesota for everyone but it is not always reaching those who need it most, especially our children and seniors. The investments we are making today will pay significant dividends for individuals and for a society that relies on a healthy population to thrive.”
Transforming Agricultural Rescue
An example of the campaign’s transformational solutions is the agricultural surplus initiative. While donating unharvested and unsold crops seems like a simple idea, making this solution practical and effective takes true logistical expertise. At the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, North Dakota (serving Moorhead, Minnesota) this meant building processing equipment to sort and pack large donations of potatoes. At Second Harvest Heartland in Minneapolis, the solution included new relationships with companies such as Bushel Boy Tomatoes. Statewide, the solution meant finding corporate and non-profit partners to coordinate the rescue of nearly 1 million pounds of sweet corn to be distributed across Minnesota and the rest of the country. In the campaign’s final/third year, Hunger-Free Minnesota will continue to work on strategies that can expand the mix of crops rescued to provide greater quantity and variety of nutritious produce for hungry Minnesotans.
Success with School Meal Programs
In 2013, the campaign made significant strides in the fight against childhood hunger, including launching the School Breakfast Challenge and After-School Meals programs. The work on these programs began in 2012 to identify best practices to increasing participation in school breakfast and to encouraging after-school programs to enroll in federal meal reimbursement programs. Through the 2013-14 School Breakfast Challenge, Hunger-Free Minnesota offers 40 Minnesota schools a financial incentive and guidance for improving breakfast participation. The School Breakfast Challenge is part of Hunger-Free Minnesota’s School Breakfast Initiative, which aims to add 4 million new meals served by schools. Investments in breakfast and after-school meals support changes that ensure a sustained increase in the number of meals served to low-income children statewide.
Community Close-Up Grants Making a Local Difference
The front line of fighting the meal gap is at the community level. Using its original research and new Community Close-Up analysis by the Boston Consulting Group, the campaign prioritized communities statewide with the highest meal gaps. Food insecurity is not only an urban problem; 40% of Minnesota’s missing meals are in rural areas. During 2013 the campaign made targeted investments in communities across the state. Leading local partners proposed collaborative, innovative strategies to increase their community’s capacity to close their local meal gap, empowered by precise local meal food insecurity maps and demographic data provided by the campaign. Funding supported a wide variety of projects, from equipment needs to handle produce and perishables, to expanded marketing and outreach to underserved communities or groups, to partnerships with local schools or service organizations. Planning grants also catalyzed new local efforts and coalitions to work together more effectively.
To date, Hunger-Free Minnesota has granted over $1 million to more than 50 organizations in all parts of the state through the Community Close-up Initiative. These investments will add more meals not just now but into the future.
About Hunger-Free Minnesota
Hunger-Free Minnesota is a time-limited data-driven campaign working to close the missing-meal gap in Minnesota by 2015. Focused on targeted initiatives that combined will add 60 million new meals to the hunger-relief system, Hunger-Free Minnesota funds innovative strategies in emergency food system capacity, sourcing nutritious food options, rescuing surplus food, enrollment and utilization of federal nutrition programs, and health outcomes for food insecure populations. More information is available at http://www.hungerfreemn.org.