COVID-19 continues to increase demand for emergency food access

Volunteers keep their distance best they can, working at different stations at the new site for the Faribault Food Access Initiative. Steph Helkenn, the new executive director, is pictured on the right. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Josh Ramaker, Rice County Public Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Partnership Coordinator, says that the pandemic has had a widespread impact on the ability of many local residents to be able to afford to put food on their table, and organizations throughout the county are responding accordingly.

“Partners have been working together to make sure those who are struggling economically due to the pandemic have access to food for themselves and their families,” says Ramaker, who as the Rice County SHIP Coordinator, helped organize the response of multiple Rice County organizations to the increased food needs of local residents. SHIP is a state-based program that works at the local level to support healthier communities by expanding opportunities for active living, healthy eating and commercial tobacco-free living.

A large number of Rice County-based organizations have participated in this local effort to increase food access. It’s estimated that approximately 210,000 pounds of food have been distributed through the Faribault Food Access Initiative since April.

“We’re having a positive impact on the health of Rice County families and ultimately that’s what’s important,” says Becky Ford, Faribault Youth Investment Director. “We will continue to work to put food on the table of those impacted by the pandemic and other factors until the need disappears”

Ramaker says that one of the positive things that will come out of the pandemic-driven coordinated food distribution effort will be an additional “brick and mortar” food shelf in Faribault. Food distribution efforts that have taken place in Faribault since the start of the pandemic showed gaps in the existing emergency food system, which a stand-alone, central facility for food storage and distribution will help overcome.

The new Faribault food shelf is being modeled after the “SuperShelf” that was built at the Northfield Community Action Center, which Rice County SHIP also helped get off the ground.

“Similar to Northfield’s food shelf, this Faribault Food Access Initiative will provide far reaching benefits throughout Rice County once it is fully operational,” says Ramaker.

In addition to Rice County Public Health, organizations involved in the Rice County emergency food effort include Allina Health, Channel One Food Bank, Community Action Center, Growing Up Healthy, Healthy Community Initiative, HealthFinders Collaborative, Hosanna Church, Faribault Diversity Coalition, Faribault Foundation, Faribault Public Schools, Faribault Youth Investment, Foundation for Essential Needs, Northfield Area Family YMCA, Rice County Area United Way, Three Rivers Community Action – Hiawathaland Transit and University of Minnesota Extension – SNAP-Ed.

Load comments