The Potluck

Second Harvest Heartland to invest $13 million in racial hunger divide

By: - September 23, 2021 4:29 pm
loves and fishes

A volunteer distributes free meals with Loaves and Fishes in Bloomington in March 2020. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Second Harvest Heartland will invest $13 million over the next five years with the goal of reducing racial disparities in food security in Minnesota, the organization announced Thursday.

Second Harvest Heartland, which distributes food to more than 1,000 food shelves across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, will use the money to provide more culturally specific foods, expand outreach and help people access other resources and federal aid.

“We are continuing to listen and learn. We’ve been working nonstop for the last 18 months and the last 30 years, and we’re going to keep our foot on the gas,” said CEO Allison O’Toole during a roundtable with local and national leaders about the racial hunger divide Thursday.

The investment comes in response to the challenges highlighted by the pandemic and racial reckoning following the police murder of George Floyd. Even before the pandemic, Black, Indigenous and other people of color were at least two times more likely than white households to experience food insecurity, according to Second Harvest Heartland.

One in six Minnesota kids — one in nine Minnesotans overall — were experienced food insecurity in September 2020, according to Second Harvest Heartland.

Food insecurity is defined as having uncertain or limited access to food.

O’Toole said some of the $13 million will go toward cooking more culturally appropriate meals at the Minnesota Central Kitchen, which Second Harvest Heartland launched in March 2020 to provide prepared meals to families. The organization will also create grants for partner food shelves to make sure available foods are good fits for their communities.

Second Harvest Heartland will invest in campaigns to dispel the stigma around food insecurity, which has been an “enormous barrier” to families in need of resources for years and especially during the pandemic, O’Toole said. The organization will set up a resource center to help families make use of available aid and benefits.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a national network of food banks said Second Harvest is moving in the right direction: “Breakthroughs in this space will happen if, and only if, we actually go into communities in partnership, without paternalism, without condescension, and provide resources that become the resources of that community.”

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.