Need for food rising at incredible rate

Apr 15, 2020

The Salvation Army Northern Division and our supporters are distributing food at an incredible rate that continues to rise with each passing day. Give now.  

Our busiest facility is the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul. During the past three weeks, this location has distributed more groceries than it normally does in three or four months. 

“Demand has skyrocketed due to COVID-19,” said Lt. Jonathan Taube, leader of the West 7th Salvation Army. “Many of the people coming to us have never visited a food pantry before.”

Our ramped-up food response has been met with heroic efforts from our volunteers and partners. For example:

  • Every day, grocery stores throughout Minnesota and North Dakota have been donating thousands of pounds of fresh produce, meat, and dairy products. 
  • Thermo King has donated the use of several refrigerated trucks, allowing our food pantries to store larger amounts of perishable items for longer periods of time. 
  • Hundreds of volunteers have been rising up to help sort, pack and distribute food. During the past three weeks, the need for food pantry volunteers has doubled. Join our volunteer team

Here’s a closer look at what a typical day is like distributing food at some of our busiest locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

West St. Paul

Before COVID-19 arrived, only a few dozen families per week requested food shelf assistance at the West 7th Salvation Army. Now, this location is typically distributing about 250 food boxes per day. That’s an average of 750 pounds of food per hour. (See photos.) 

“People have told me they would have nothing to eat if we weren’t giving out food,” said Taube (pictured), noting that most food boxes include a variety of bread, pasta, rice, meat, eggs, canned foods, and produce.

Other food pantry guests have been stopping by to pick up food for their neighbors. This includes a woman named Kris, who recently received several boxes of groceries for her friends who are shut-in at a nearby senior housing facility. 

“Without this program, some of my neighbors would be eating very, very little,” Kris said. “We’ve already seen them lose a lot of weight.”

This entire food operation requires the help of about a dozen staff and volunteers, who spend eight hours hustling to manage food deliveries, pack food boxes, and give the food away. 

Lately, the staff and volunteers have been staying extra busy.  

“We gave out over 30 food boxes in the first 30 minutes we were open on Monday,” said Taube, whose biggest day so far was April 9, when 550 food boxes were distributed. 

The West 7th Salvation Army also partners with Metro Mobility to deliver food to those who request it (read story). Close to 100 of these food deliveries are scheduled for this week.

“We keep getting busier and busier,” Taube said. “I have a feeling this is just the beginning.”

South Minneapolis 

The South Minneapolis Salvation Army operates a small food pantry that is doing big things.

During the past two weeks, this location has provided groceries for nearly 500 extra households, in addition to the 100 households it serves during an average week. 

Special drive-thru food distributions were held this and last week (see photos), providing families with bread, meat, fresh produce, and other foods (pictured). Most of the food was donated by Aldi, Cub, Target, Walmart, and other local grocers.  

“The people around here are hurting for food – many of them have lost their jobs,” said Major Roberto Viquez (pictured), leader of the South Minneapolis Salvation Army, which serves a community that is mostly Hispanic. “Our staff, volunteers and partners are working hard to meet the needs of the East Lake Street community.”

Prior to each drive-thru distribution, groups of volunteers spent hours unloading trucks and sorting food donations (pictured). That includes longtime Salvation Army volunteer Marie Putnam, who helped pack boxes on Monday. 

“People need help, and I’m trying to offer that help,” said Putnam, a retired Target employee who volunteers at least 100 hours per month. Join our volunteer team.

The South Minneapolis is preparing to host more drive-thru food distributions as the need rises.  

Join the fight for good

Please join our fight for good by donating money through a $1 million matching opportunity. Your gift will provide food and basic care for people and families experiencing financial strain during the COVID-19 crisis. Give now

If you don’t have money to spare, you can still help by donating any of the following items at your local Salvation Army:

  • Nonperishable canned foods
  • Paper products (paper towels, toilet paper)
  • Baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes

Please call your local Salvation Army before donating these items in order to confirm drop-off hours and procedures. 

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those affected by the COVID-19 crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide emergency assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.

If you are feeling lonely, fearful or hopeless due to the COVID-19 crisis, call our Emotional and Spiritual Care Hotline at 877-220-4195 anytime between 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Central Time. Trained Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers will be available to talk, listen to you, and pray for you. 

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