Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Salvation Army volunteer organizing produce

We combat ‘food deserts’ by creating an oasis

Added on Friday, March 16, 2018

Written by Sangeetha Gummadi, Donor Relations Director

Have you ever heard the term ‘food desert’?

A food desert is a geographic area where residents do not have access to affordable, healthy food options such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

As a national and local leader in the fight against hunger, The Salvation Army and many of its food shelves specialize in offering fresh fruits and vegetables to local communities – transforming food deserts into food oases.

Tables filled with fresh fruitI witnessed this firsthand when I joined a group of volunteers at the E. Lake St. Salvation Army in Minneapolis, where we provided 50 families in need with bags of fresh groceries. These families – many of whom struggle with health concerns or job loss – find safe refuge at this Salvation Army location, whose fresh food distribution occurs once a month.

We started our day by unloading pallets of donated produce, including leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, apples and avocados, to name just a few. It was enough food to make my head spin!

I was overwhelmed with gratitude for our Twin Cities partners who choose to donate. The experience reminded me that something as simple as a bag of groceries can be a priceless blessing, providing valuable nourishment while also helping people to maintain their independence and dignity.

One particular guest humbled me. He was a young man on a bike. He had never been to our food shelf before. He said he didn’t have enough money for groceries and admitted that he had reached his breaking point.

Luckily, he was in the right place to find help.

Salvation Army staff and Captain Jesus Trejo pose for a pictureCaptain Jesus Trejo, co-leader of the E. Lake St. Salvation Army (pictured in white), welcomed the young man and offered to bless him with a bag of healthy groceries.

Although the young man was grateful, his enthusiasm deflated when he told Captain Trejo that he had no way to get the food home because he rode in on his bike. Without missing a beat, Captain Trejo told the young man not to worry – he would provide bags to hang from the bike’s handlebars and make the trip home much easier.

Captain Trejo’s offer was another small, simple demonstration of how The Salvation Army meets people’s needs, where they are.

Later, Captain Trejo offered this prayer:

“When life gets difficult, O Lord, you always display your grace and your strength in our lives. And Lord what a blessing, we receive today, through this produce, through the food you’ve given. We just pray Lord that you can use us in a mighty way, to be hope, to be love to those come today. We may not know what is going on in their lives, but we do know one thing, that you Lord are the one that can help them overcome, that you are the one that can give them hope, that can give them a future.”

I am thankful for my volunteer experience that morning. Through the support of Salvation Army donors and volunteers, I was able to join in blessing a community.

Thank you!

How to help

If you’d like to join The Salvation Army in helping people in need, like the young man who visited our produce distribution, please support our food shelves by donating money or giving food at any of our locations in the Twin Cities.

Now is a great time to donate – especially for Minnesotans, whose donations will be proportionally matched during Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign.