After its initial contact with FFEN in 2019, Community Action Center (CAC) in Rice County reached out once again when the COVID-19 pandemic compelled the need for increased, permanent food shelf support to augment mobile distribution and fill gaps in service within the Faribault community.

FFEN stepped in and worked alongside CAC staff and the Faribault Food Access Initiative, a coalition of mutual aid programs in the area to consult on the layout of new space to meet SuperShelf standards. In addition, FFEN helped to secure $10,000 in funds through MN DHS-OEO or a new HVAC system for the space. FFEN also was instrumental in leading conversations between CAC and Channel One Regional Food Bank around food sourcing needs and opportunities, and preparing for the transition from mobile to brick and mortar food distribution.

Starting in October 2020, FFEN contributed more than 25 staff and volunteer hours advising CAC on space, layout and design, and planning, and provided assistance and expertise until the space opened to the public in October 2021. Since that time, food access has doubled by expanding to daily service hours and weekly access, up from twice per month. Fresh food options also increased, providing five times more dairy and two times more USDA commodity pounds per person than previously offered. And the shopping experience could not be better: The new HVAC system allows shoppers to shop in comfort while the SuperShelf model provides them with the freedom to navigate the aisles and shop the shelves as they desire. 

Since storage space for fresh foods is at a premium, one of CAC’s goals is to further increase fresh food access by acquiring additional cooler space. Utilizing data supplied by FFEN’s Food Sourcing Analysis (FSA) report, CAC applied for funding from the Otto Bremer Foundation to help make this dream a reality. And—this just in—CAC was recently notified that they were awarded the funding requested!

Anika Rychner, Senior Director, shared, “We are so grateful for our partnership with FFEN. They continue to show up for us in countless ways, supporting us as we grow, encouraging us when our work is overwhelming, and providing guidance and resources to help us meet the ever changing and increasing needs in our community.”

CAC is proud of what it is able to provide for the community and plans to participate in FFEN’s 2022 Food Shelf Shopper survey in order to further refine its services in the weeks and months to come. FFEN will continue to provide ongoing support to assist in CAC’s model of continuous improvement!