Leaders from the nine food shelves selected to participate in the Fresh Food First Learning Cohort met with FFEN for a kick-off session in March.  This cohort experience is focused on decreasing food waste at food shelves while increasing fresh food available to community members facing food insecurity.  Food shelves are already doing significant work managing perishable foods and limiting food waste AND FFEN has observed across our work with food shelves that there is still opportunity for continued improvements in this effort.  This experience is seeking to identify and refine the tools that will have the greatest impact on these goals for food shelves and the individuals they serve.

The kick-off session in March introduced food shelf leaders to the tools and resources available to them through FFEN’s consultation and support.  Participating food shelves were able to start to develop peer relationships and identify other organizations facing similar challenges and opportunities.  The Fresh Food First Learning Cohort will run through November 2024. Tools piloted this year will be widely available to food shelves across the state in early 2025.

FFEN staff and volunteers are excited to work with the following food shelves across Minnesota.  Click here to see a map of their locations in the state.

Basic Needs Food Market (Cottage Grove, MN)

Basic Needs Inc., founded in 1996, operates a thrift shop and opened their food market in 2023 to serve additional needs of community members in South Washington County. The food shelf serves nearly 4,500  households per month and about 90% of their overall food sourcing comes from food rescue. Basic Needs Food Market is looking to address a lack of equipment to properly showcase fresh food items and to find ways to increase space to store excess products.

Belle Plaine Food Shelf (Belle Plaine, MN)

Belle Plaine Food Shelf operates a Supershelf model food shelf that serves residents of Belle Plaine and surrounding communities, serving approximately 150 households per month. About 50% of their overall food sourcing comes from food rescue. Belle Plaine Food Shelf is hoping to learn how to merchandise fresh food in a way that encourages their shoppers to take more, as a way to decrease the amount of food that goes bad before it is used.

Catholic Charities St. Cloud (St. Cloud, MN)

Catholic Charities Emergency Services Food Shelf includes a main distribution site, mobile food shelf and home-delivery program, and is the largest food shelf in central Minnesota. Catholic Charities Food Shelf serves an average of 1,700 households each month and is SuperShelf certified. The food shelf offers monthly visits by appointment, although walk-ins are accommodated. Approximately 60% of the food shelf’s overall food source is provided by food rescue. Catholic Charities Food Shelf is looking to minimize the amount of food going to waste before it can be displayed or received by shoppers.

Cross Center of Benton County (Foley, MN)

Cross Center of Benton County serves Benton County in Central MN, offering a choice by shopping list model that serves over 300 households per month.  Clients are invited to visit once per month and can also access perishable items in between monthly visits. They also operate a clothing closet, available free of charge. Food rescue makes up approximately 30-40% of their total food sourced. The Cross Center is limited by lack of equipment to properly showcase perishable items, and their current shopping list model hasn’t allowed shoppers to choose specific items, which hinders the movement of fresh foods.  

HAVEN – Restoration (St. Paul, MN)

HAVEN Food Shelf serves residents of St. Paul and surrounding communities, averaging over 100 households per month. Open on the last Fridays, customers may also call to schedule other times to visit the food shelf. Food shelf visitors choose their own foods in a client choice model. They provide additional resources for the community, including a farming program for elders. About 20% of food sourced is via food rescue. HAVEN Food Shelf lacks enough merchandisers to showcase their fresh food, and also has found that clients are resistant to take items that are close to (expiration) date. 

Northpoint Health and Wellness (Minneapolis, MN)

Northpoint Health and Wellness is a multi-service organization that operates a food shelf serving about 2,000 households each month. They operate in a client choice model, with clients offered food shelf access once per month. They also offer a Daily Express Market using food rescue only, which clients can access as often as they like. Approximately 50% of Northpoint’s food sourcing is via food rescue. This food shelf is looking to find ways to address their lack of merchandisers to showcase fresh food, and to reduce the amount of food that goes bad before it can be displayed or clients receive it. 

Sibley County Food Share (Gaylord, MN)

Sibley County Food Share serves residents of Sibley County and surrounding areas, providing food to roughly 180 households per month.  They operate a Supershelf model client choice food shelf that shoppers can access once a month. About 25% of their overall food is sourced from food rescue. Sibley County Food Share is looking to decrease the number of pounds of food discarded by improving food rescue effectiveness and efficiency, better display and merchandising of fresh foods to encourage shoppers to access these items.

Walker Area Food Shelf (Walker, MN)

Walker Area Food Shelf has been servicing Walker, MN and surrounding communities for over 30 years, offering a choice model. The food shelf serves approximately 200 households per month where shoppers have a certain number of choices per category based on their household size. Approximately 15% of their total food supply comes from food rescue. Walker Area Food Shelf is looking for ways to better showcase and merchandise fresh food.

Waseca Area Neighborhood Service Center (Waseca, MN)

Waseca Area Neighborhood Service Center serves almost 400 households each month in Waseca and surrounding communities. They offer food shelf services, including a backpack program that supplies an additional source of food for students over the weekends and are also home to a thrift store.  Clients choose their own foods and are able to visit each week. About 40% of their overall food sourced comes from food rescue. This service center has seen a decrease in food rescue items available to the food shelf due to the loss of a local grocery store and is looking for ways to improve merchandising techniques for low stock items.

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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