Many people are surprised to discover that a significant percentage of people who received food from Neighborhood House during FY19 were employed full time. In fact, there is no “typical” person who receives food from Neighborhood House’s Food Support programs. Participants range from students to seniors; immigrants to U.S. citizens; people who are unemployed to employed; and people with disabilities.
There is, however, one common truth behind participants’ need for food—achieving food stability is a critical component of a family’s ability to move out of poverty. Many people experiencing poverty in the St. Paul community depend on Neighborhood House’s Food Support programs to supplement the amount and quality of food they’re able to purchase. People such as Kaying, a senior living on a fixed income who relies on the Food Market for her regular resource for food; Brian, who uses the Food Market intermittently as a supplement to provide for his three children during hard times; Rosa, who volunteers at the Food Market every Wednesday and shops there when she needs extra food for her grandchildren; and George, who is an Adult Education student at Wellstone.
In the past year, each of our Food Support programs experienced an increase in the number of people who received food and the amount of food distributed, particularly the indoor Fresh Produce Distributions. “As a team we’re all feeling the strain of the number of families that come in. It’s hard to hear from so many people how much they depend on food support and that they’ve run out of food for the week or the month,” says Georgi Nguyen, CPH, MPH, Neighborhood House Food Support Manager. “But I’m proud of the Food Support team. Each staff member has so much passion for what they do and always puts our families first.”
Not only were we able to serve more people in need of food in FY19, Neighborhood House also experienced an increase in the number and commitment of volunteers working in Food Support. “Corporate sponsors and volunteers for Fresh Produce Distribution has seen the most growth in the last year,” Georgi says. “The first year that we did an indoor distribution we had a difficult time getting enough sponsors and volunteers to run the event. Now we have enough help at every distribution and typically have a sponsor who also pays for the food, which is awesome.”
In an effort to help participants meet additional needs beyond food, we provided referrals to families in need of clothing resources, government benefits, energy assistance, adult education opportunities, and more. To track our effectiveness of those referrals, we modified our intake process to include an outcome follow-up to discover whether the families were able to connect with any of the referrals we offered.
Looking forward, Neighborhood House will be further improving the shopping experience for participants by partnering with SuperShelf—a process that uses a multi-step system to create a food shelf environment that is client centered, promotes and respects individual choice, and applies behavioral economic principles promote healthy food choices. We also have a plan to expand the variety of options that we provide for culturally appropriate foods.
Looking back at FY19, for the more than 20,000 people who received more than 1 million pounds of food from Neighborhood House Food Support, the full impact is incalculable.