Does your food shelf have a great supply of food rescue donations, but struggles to distribute it to shoppers before it goes bad?  Join this learning cohort project for support in identifying solutions!

Food Rescue is an increasingly important food stream that allows food shelves to stock more items that meet their shoppers needs.  It also comes with added challenges and opportunities that require additional knowledge and people power to manage.  

FFEN’s Fresh Food First Learning Cohort is an opportunity for food shelves in Minnesota to maximize this essential fresh food by honing techniques to distribute more pounds and decrease food waste. The cohort will focus on layout and process changes from receipt of food to distribution, ensuring that as much of the food rescue received is getting to shoppers! Participants will access tools and resources to enhance merchandising, food storage and sorting techniques, as well as participate in tailored on-site consultations and peer learning sessions. This project will be integral in testing and further refining tools and practices to enable more food shelves to maximize their fresh foods in the future!

Fresh Food First Learning Cohort – Additional Details

This opportunity is open to 7-10 food shelves and will take place from March to November, 2024.  There is no cost for participation. The cohort experience will include:

  • Initial online kick-off session to introduce tools and meet fellow food shelves. 
  • 3 on-site visits with FFEN staff and volunteers to evaluate current practices and layout design.
  • Layout rendering and adjustments to facilitate the best flow of fresh foods.
  • 2 online peer learning sessions.
  • Up to $10,000 in equipment improvements to preserve and showcase fresh foods.
  • Food Sourcing Analysis (FSA) Reports to track changes throughout the project.

Food shelf participants will work with FFEN staff and volunteers to design a customized project plan to pilot tools and improvements at the start of the pilot.

Food Shelf Participation Expectations

The Fresh Food First Learning Cohort is designed to maximize food rescue streams in a tailored consultation and peer learning environment.  Participating food shelves should already be receiving food rescue donations and see an opportunity to decrease the food wastage in this stream.  Ideal candidates will be open to changing current operational processes to increase the amount of this food that can be distributed to shoppers.  Priority will be given to food shelves in regions of concern for environmental justice

Learning Cohort members will be expected to:

  • Participate in scheduled events and site visits.
  • Collaborate with FFEN staff and volunteers to design a project plan customized to your food shelf.
  • Sign FFEN’s Engagement Agreement to allow access to food sourcing data and statics reports from your regional food bank, as well as to agree with promotion and sharing of successes through FFEN’s online media streams.
  • Submit monthly reports on food received through food rescue streams and food discarded.
  • Provide feedback on tools and resources for further refinement.
  • Be willing to share your experience to contribute to case studies for broader sector learning

Fresh Food First Learning Cohort – Key Dates

  • Tuesday, January  2, 2024: Applications Open
  • Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Applications Close
  • Friday, February 9, 2024: Applicants Notified of Decision
  • Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 11am – 12:30pm: Kick Off Session
  • Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 11am – 12:30pm: Peer Learning Session #1
  • Tuesday, September 10, 2024, 11am – 12:30pm: Peer Learning Session #2
  • Site visits will be scheduled based on availability in the following timeframes:
  • Site Visit #1: Mid March – Mid May
  • Site Visit #2: Mid June – Mid July
  • Site Visit #3: Mid October – Mid November

How to apply

Applications for the 2024 Fresh Food First Learning Cohort will be accepted online through 5pm on Wednesday, January 31st.   Click here to apply!


Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions! Contact FFEN at for your quickest response.

Thank You to our Funders!

This project is made possible by a Prevention of Wasted Food and Food Rescue Grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  

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