A small, rural Minnesota town with just over 2,000 people call Eyota home. And the community support is strong.

In 2017, a girl scout troop started the Eyota Food Pantry to help serve their neighbors. And when the scouts graduated high school and could no longer run the food shelf, Front and Center Ministries took over the operation so that the community would continue to have an option for those facing food insecurity.

“One of the great gifts that we have, that came out of the beginning of this food shelf through the Girl Scouts, is the community commitment to it. It just is astonishing how much support we get,” says Beth Krolak, Front and Center Board Member. Front and Center Ministries knew that with their community and the support of FFEN, they could make the food shelf into something even more impactful.

First, they needed FFEN’s help with layout design for the food shelf space. They had moved the food shelf to a new location where they are co-located with a thrift store that helps fund the food shelf. FFEN provided several initial layout design options and worked with food shelf leaders to finalize a layout that allows shoppers to easily navigate the new space.

Front and Center also wanted help connecting with their local food bank. They were currently providing only locally donated food to their community, and leaders wanted to expand their sourcing options so they could provide food more consistently with healthier, fresher options. FFEN connected them to the appropriate Channel One Food Bank staff and helped move the partnership along, opening up access to  low-cost food sourcing as well as TEFAP, USDA Commodity food that is low-cost for the food shelf and high value for shoppers.

Lastly, they needed equipment recommendations and signage. Because they would now be providing more food and new kinds of items, they needed new ways to store and label food for a safe and consistent experience for shoppers. FFEN recommended commercial coolers and freezers that could store popular items like dairy, meat, and eggs, and provided signage to accompany the space.

Since the project, the Front and Center has extended their hours and now serves twice as many people, they’re bringing in four times as much fresh produce as before, and they’ve created a sustainable, shopper-friendly food shelf.

“We have had new faces come in. We know that we’re serving the area, rather than just our town. More than we were before,” says Beth.

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