Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army serving the Hibbing area in St. Louis County set their sights on making some changes to their food shelf. With their day-to-day operations confined to a small space, they initially reached out to FFEN in October 2019 with the hope of reimagining their space and processes. The multi-service agency, which offers services and support to those in need in the community, also had provided pre-packed food boxes supplemented by a produce and bread giveaway for those needing food assistance. But their hope was to transform their pre-packed model into a shopper’s choice experience. That was their ultimate goal—and they couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

The redesign began with FFEN skilled volunteers who worked diligently on new space layout options. At the same time, Salvation Army staff worked on renovations, including installing new flooring and electrical updates, to make the space safer and more welcoming for their shoppers.

FFEN staff and volunteers contributed more than 30 hours to complete the layout redesign and create food shelf signage. In addition, they secured  funding through their partnership with Minnesota DHS-OEO, TEFAP Program, for new glass door coolers and freezers, improving the visual appeal for their food shelf and increasing their capacity for produce, dairy and proteins. And perhaps most important, they provided the consultation and support needed to transform Salvation Army’s food assistance program from the former pre-pack model to the new choice-by-category shopping model.

Despite the reality of COVID and its consequent delays, the new Salvation Army space opened in May 2022. And big impacts are already being felt. Food shelf hours have increased by 50% to allow for greater food access. In a post-transformation FFEN evaluation on shopping experience assessment, the new service model had a 40% improvement in areas shoppers most care about from the 2019 food shelf survey, particularly by providing the opportunity to choose their own foods. With a cost decrease of 19% per person, Salvation Army Hibbing is positioned well for the future.

Thanks to support from FFEN, the food shelf operation at Salvation Army Hibbing continues to look ahead to make their operations even more sustainable in the days and years to come. They plan to increase sourcing of their dairy, produce, and TEFAP products for their choice food shelf. In addition, they are hoping to offer even greater access to shoppers by inviting them to shop more frequently to access the fresh food items they need. 

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