Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army (SA) Noble food shelf, located in Brooklyn Park, had been extremely limited in their capacity to feed local families, serving about 15 families a week. In response to the pandemic, and under the leadership of Captain Josh, SA Noble challenged themselves to do more for their diverse community experiencing high food insecurity rates.
The food shelf expanded their programming to a curb-side model in the beginning of 2020 and began seeing over 150 families per week! By the fall of 2020, FFEN had been connected to the SA Noble team to develop a sustainable response to this explosion of food demand, ensuring that they could continue to serve the community into the future.
FFEN staff and project manager volunteer, Sue, visited the SA Noble site that fall and quickly confirmed critical infrastructure needs related to coolers and freezers as well as the importance of building remodel requirements to more easily move the thousands of pounds of food that they planned to distribute to the community.
“We couldn’t have moved on a food shelf here with the expediency that we were able to move on, if we didn’t have the partnership with FFEN,” said Captain Josh. “We were partnering with an organization that focuses on building capacity for food shelves. I think our vision and what we wanted to do was definitely strengthened by tapping into the highly-skilled people at FFEN, who really helped us make something great to address our community’s needs.”
FFEN assisted with funding building modifications, including installation of a double-door entry into the food shelf space for optimized food movement, and electrical needs for additional refrigeration. Sue has also been a resource for increasing strategic food sourcing practices to ensure that the food shelf can maximize USDA commodity foods and focus sourcing and distribution on the foods that shoppers most want: fresh produce, protein and dairy. As a result, SA Noble increased sourcing of the top 4 categories food shelf shoppers want from 50% to 62%; which is above the state average.
SA Noble’s remodeled food shelf space has allowed them to implement a hybrid service option: continuing to offer a low-contact, curbside food distribution model and also invite those interested to shop inside the building. They increased their shopping hours by 9x. The new grocery store set-up with clear food choices and flow utilizes FFEN’s food shelf signage to offer choice by broader food category. They continue to see high food service demand but now can offer that service in a more efficient, dignified and welcoming space. “People really love it!” shared Captain Josh.