Over the last month, we are sure you have seen many stories or postings on social media about organizations throughout the Twin Cities doing food drives or mobilizing to provide food to those in need. We are incredibly grateful for your support of Keystone in our work to provide for people in our community! We are also grateful for the work everyone is doing to address the rapidly accelerating need for food in our community.
Food Needs in the Community Are Expected to Increase
Earlier this week, our partners at Second Harvest Heartland released a large study which forecasts that the need for food support is going to reach levels in the next 6-12 months that have not been seen since the Great Depression. You can read more about this anticipated need and what is driving this community need in this article from the Star Tribune yesterday.
Keystone is on the Front Lines Offering Support
Keystone has been on the front lines providing food support through food shelf programs for nearly 50 years. Last year, Keystone experienced a 9.5% increase in participation in our basic needs programs, providing food support to more than 27,000 people in our community. We were anticipating increased need again this year and that was before everything changed in mid-March. The global pandemic, a significant and sudden jump in unemployment rates combined with already high housing costs, wages that aren’t keeping up with the cost of living, and systemic disparities for people of color are all critical factors that are driving increased needs in our community. We are seeing first-hand how the face of hunger is quickly changing in our community; more than 30% of the people currently participating in our food shelf programs have never used a food shelf before.
Throughout our strategic planning process last year, one thing came through loud and clear from the 700+ who shared their feedback with us — our community needs more food resources and they want Keystone to do more. Over these past few months, we have been identifying ways we can accelerate some of our longer-term plans to meet the increased needs in our community right now.
Accelerating Programs to Meet Increased Need
Below are a few examples of services we have jump-started and our plan to expand in the coming months to respond to needs in the community:
- Expanding Foodmobile Services: Our second Foodmobile vehicle is on the road, thanks to the generosity of our community. Our new Foodmobile vehicle offers 50% more capacity to deliver more food including dairy, meat, and produce, directly to people in the community which eliminates barriers to accessing food shelf programs. In the coming months we will be increasing Foodmobile distributions throughout the community.
- Providing a home delivery option: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have partnered with Metro Mobility who have mobilized their vehicles and drivers to deliver food shelf grocery items to people in need. This model offers a safe, food shelf service delivery for those with health concerns or transportation barriers. There are no age or disability requirements for this service and it is open to anyone in need in Ramsey County. We have capacity to grow this program further in the coming months.
- Offering mass distribution events, in a drive-up service model: Earlier this month, we partnered with Allianz Life, MN United and Second Harvest Heartland to host a large food distribution event at Allianz Field to deliver produce, meat, and dairy items to people in need. In just two hours, more than 820 households received 50+ pounds of fresh food. The Pioneer Press put out a wonderful article about this event which I encourage you to read if you haven’t yet. We will be providing other “drive-up” style events throughout the summer and fall to respond to increased need.
- Planning for a new community food site: When we consolidated from 3 to 2 food shelf sites last year, we knew we needed a new community food site that would help us offer more food resources for our community. We are using every inch available at our Midway and Rice Street sites and have leased space for our growing Foodmobile operations. We are accelerating our planning for a new community food site so we will have a long-term solution that provides accessible food resources and other vital services for our community.
We welcome feedback from our community about everything we are modifying and accelerating to meet the increasing food needs in St. Paul. We will continue to keep you updated and please don’t hesitate to contact President Mary McKeown anytime with ideas or suggestions for things we can be doing to be an asset in our community.
Thank you for your support of our community!