Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvest from the Heart (Cosecha del Corazon) Food Shelf began to feel growing pains as the need increased for more culturally-specific foods accessible in a choice atmosphere. And through savvy connections with Second Harvest Heartland, The Food Group and other strategic partners, they reached out to FFEN in the summer of 2020 as they sought creative solutions to respond to that need, then compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Housed in the basement of Incarnation Church in South Minneapolis for nearly 40 years, the food shelf found this dual-language (Spanish and English) community to be a safe space for its primarily Latino families to access much-needed resources. But as demand for food increased, they found they were outgrowing that space. They needed a plan, sooner rather than later.
Food shelf leaders had a dream to make their space a welcoming one for all who visit; one where families could exercise choice by making their own food selections with more access to fresh, quality items. And with growing food insecurity in the heart of South Minneapolis (they served more than 25,000 families over 1.7 million pounds of food with a cost of more than 2.8 million dollars throughout the pandemic), Harvest from the Heart was positioned to become a valuable resource center for the neighborhood. With a vision toward the future and support from the community, FFEN was able to help make that dream a reality.
FFEN volunteers donated more than 20 hours of their time to reimagine nearly every aspect of the food shelf. Together with staff and community they discussed evolving food shelf sourcing and distribution models including the creation of a food rescue center; consulted with an architect on space reconfiguration; assisted with a building plan and set a budget. FFEN was able to secure funding for construction plus a new HVAC system from Alerus Mortgage as well as $11,000 from DHS-OEO and TEFAP for glass door freezers and coolers for the new space. FFEN also helped Harvest from the Heart engage a software/hardware supplier for tracking inventory supply chain rescue partners as well as tracking families who will utilize the food shelf in the future.
The outcome could not be better: the new space, which evolved by converting a four-stall garage space, broke ground in December 2020 and was completed in November 2021 just in time to provide Thanksgiving food items for families needing assistance. And the upgrades have actually tripled Harvest from the Heart’s capacity to provide fresh food and dairy items, one of the project’s top priorities. Additionally, newly expanded food shelf hours have increased accessibility from one visit per month to one visit per week, and the choice model has improved guests’ shopping experience by empowering them to make their own shopping decisions.
As Harvest from the Heart looks toward the future, their hopes and dreams continue to unfold. FFEN will continue to be by their side as they refine their services to best serve the community in the days and years to come. Their satisfied staff and volunteers say it all: “FFEN has been a wonderful partner and we look forward to working with them in the future as Harvest from the Heart grows across the Twin Cities.“