With need at an all-time high, JFCS conducts multi-pronged effort to address food insecurity

With food insecurity at record-high levels in the Twin Cities, JFCS has added to its food security services by fighting hunger in new ways this fall. These efforts include securing food donations, emergency food box deliveries, outreach to local food shelves and legislative advocacy plans.    

According to Second Harvest Heartland, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one in 11 Minnesotans struggled to afford food. Now, one in eight Minnesotans face hunger. JFCS is here to help.

The Stillman Family Foundation, led by JFCS Board Member Andy Stillman, has donated 20,000 pounds of dried fruit and nuts, for which JFCS is managing distribution to local organizations who will, in turn, distribute the food to individuals and families in need. JFCS is storing the food in its Hag Sameach warehouse, and is arranging to get the food out to community members through the anti-hunger network in which we participate.

“Andy Stillman and the Stillman Family Foundation have been terrific catalysts and partners in helping JFCS to expand the ways in which we help community members to achieve food security,” said Lee Friedman, JFCS Chief Operating Officer. “Now, when the pandemic has forced economic hardship on so many of our neighbors, JFCS is determined and ready to provide more support to fight hunger.”

Food shelf closures

The PRISM Food Shelf, which shares a building with JFCS, was forced to close temporarily this fall due to COVID (it has since re-opened); this sort of rolling closure for food shelves will likely continue to be an issue in the metro area. Tracking availability of food has become more urgent as demand increases and access becomes more complicated with temporary closures, new pop-up services, and the increased need for food delivery. JFCS Food Security Coordinator Clare Gravon began compiling a summary of the food shelves in JFCS’ area that accept participants outside of their service area and also offer food delivery. Gravon and JFCS Intake and Resource Connection (IRC) staff expanded their data gathering to include information on food shelf processes, qualifications for delivery, and hours of operation. 

JFCS staff has also seen an increase in end-of-day/end-of-week emergency food needs, so drivers from JFCS’ Garber Transportation program have started delivering emergency food boxes to fill last-minute requests. With a few days’ notice, IRC staff can arrange for the JFCS Garber Transportation program to provide free delivery of PRISM food to households that need transportation assistance.

SNAP advocacy and assistance

Gravon participates in meetings with Partners to End Hunger, a statewide anti-hunger coalition, to develop a food security advocacy agenda for the 2021 Minnesota legislative session, and kick off a statewide survey project to improve and promote SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps).

The goal of the survey project is to engage households that receive SNAP and those who are eligible – but not enrolled – to better understand people’s experiences, how to reduce barriers and possible solutions to improve the program. Partners to End Hunger will use that information to work towards policy and administrative recommendations to strengthen the program in Minnesota.

At the survey project meetings, Gravon was able to make connections with several smaller food shelves that lack infrastructure to help connect their participants to long-term sustainable food resources. Some of these food shelves focus exclusively on getting food out the door on a weekly basis and don’t have the capacity to help people with SNAP applications or longer-term sustainable food options. JFCS can help people with these additional resources.

“We’re finding that with the rules changing, the need increasing, and the extra component of people unable to use public transportation or in quarantine, it takes more to connect people to the full spectrum of support that they will need for sustainable food security,” Gravon said.

JFCS has been able to use our Garber Transportation program to help get food delivered to people who wouldn’t have access otherwise. We are also available to help people with online grocery shopping because not everyone has access to technology or the ability to shop online.

“For vulnerable people, food delivery has become much more critical,” Gravon said. “Like so many programs, we’ve had to become more creative about how we meet people’s needs.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, please call JFCS at 952-546-0616.