This story is featured in MHA's community benefit report.
Since the onset of the global pandemic of COVID-19, food banks across the nation have experienced a sharp rise in need and expenses. To help ease that burden, and to promote good health in the communities it serves, last October Sanford Health announced one of the largest-ever donations to a series of food banks in the Upper Midwest. The $3 million gift was split across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
The donation coincided with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations World Food Day, which promotes worldwide awareness and action for those experiencing hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all. Research shows that food insecurity is linked to health risks including a range of chronic diseases in adults and developmental challenges in children.
Food banks across Minnesota felt the unprecedented demand, some seeing an increase of 40-60% this past year. Families in need in the following four Minnesota counties will benefit from the donation for years to come:
Southwest Minnesota – Luverne
Sanford Health Senior Director Tammy Loosbrock serves on the board of her local food shelf and knows firsthand the great need in her community. In 2019, the Rock County Food Shelf served more than 1,000 families and gave away nearly 60,000 pounds of food. Getting her team to volunteer wasn’t hard. She had an overwhelming response to help collect and deliver meals.
Northwest Minnesota – East Grand Forks
The North County Food Bank in East Grand Forks serves 21 counties and, like other food banks across the region, it has faced a steep increase in demand from last year, where more than 5 million meals were distributed. The organization saw a 40% spike in demand with more than 30,000 new individuals needing assistance. Community leaders called the Sanford Health donation “transformational.”
South Central Minnesota – Worthington
The increased demand in Worthington is much the same story. Triple the number of normal first-time visitors are seeking meals from the local pantry. In addition to supplying grocery items to food pantries, pop-up events are also taking place in this South Central Minnesota town. As one community leader said, “This Sanford Health donation will allow us to purchase and deliver more food for this area. This means so much and we just want to sing from the rooftops.”
North Central Minnesota – Bemidji
Sanford Bemidji and North Country Food Bank participated in a Farm to Families food distribution event in Bemidji and described some of the ways the donated money will be used. North Country Food Bank was able to provide food boxes to 1,100 families in need during the November event, which was staffed by over 20 local leaders from Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. The following month, North Country Food Bank hosted a second Farm to Families food distribution event in Park Rapids and Ponsford. Each distribution served 600 families.