Born in the 1970s, in a 150 square foot space under the basement stairs of Simpson United Methodist Church, Simpson Food Pantry has always been a critical resource in the Whittier neighborhood of South Minneapolis. The beautiful—but crumbling—nearly-140-year-old structure was at a crossroads and its leaders had a critical decision to make: spend every last penny on repairs or reimagine the future of the food shelf operations in a new location.
A shelter without a food shelf
Since repairing the church building was deemed unsustainable, the church was slated for demolition. And in a gesture rich with compassion, the building was donated to Simpson Housing with plans to rebuild the shelter into a new, state-of-the-art facility in the same location. But with that rebuild came a somewhat smaller footprint, one that left the space without a food shelf—and the food shelf without a space.
Nowhere to move
As plans for demolition took shape, Simpson Food Pantry reached out to FFEN to help them navigate their uncertain future. FFEN was there to offer guidance on new, cost-effective solutions for creating a safe and welcoming space for its food shelf operations, and to ensure that it maintained its reputation as a dependable and trusted resource in a community full of need.
Finding a building with the right specifications and geographic location to continue to serve its shoppers has not been an easy task for Simpson Food Pantry, committed to serving its patrons seamlessly through a time of transition. So how does an established, beloved and necessary community resource move forward with no place to move?
Source + Simpson = the marriage of two food shelves
Collaboration and coordination are often efficient and strategic decisions within a community, and finding an appropriate partner with similar goals was an aspiration for Simpson. Enter Source MN to make those aspirations a reality. Source has been serving at-risk and unreached individuals with a food shelf, community meals, and other spiritual and emotional support services and programs in Minneapolis for several decades. Combining forces and working toward achieving the same goals is one creative solution to tackling the challenge of finding the perfect physical space. As partners, Simpson Food Pantry would be able to utilize space within Source MN’s facility, working its food distribution and open hours schedules around Source’s hours of operation.
And now the dust is settled
With saying goodbye to Simpson United Methodist Church and their relocation in the rearview, Simpson Food Pantry is happily beginning to settle into their new home with Source MN. They are still serving a walk-in population while continuing to shift some of their distribution hours. They are grateful to see the return of many of their regular guests who are adapting to their new processes, hours and location. And they are now serving close to 500 families each week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays alone and another nearly 300 families on two Saturdays per month.
There is still much to be done. With a new slate of board members beginning their terms, Simpson is looking ahead at what is to come, with researching and establishing a dedicated fiscal sponsorship at the top of their list. In addition, they want to focus on their Latino community, providing them with the culturally-relevant foods they require and Spanish speaking resources to support them into the future. FFEN continues to support Simpson with their efforts.
Source + Simpson are excited about the possibilities for co-branding and publicizing their new and unique partnership and finding innovative ways to communicate about this new venture to their food shelf guests and the broader community. They continue to explore sharing resources and responsibilities, fundraising, storage and all that goes along with a good partnership. And when two partners share the same mission—namely to end food insecurity in their South Minneapolis neighborhood—the outcome can only be positive.