Local nonprofit Loaves and Fishes announces new leader, plans expansion into central Minn.

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The largest free meal program in Minnesota has a new leader and is expanding its reach into central Minnesota.

Local nonprofit Loaves and Fishes recently announced Kiley Benson is taking over as its executive director.

Benson worked side by side with former Executive Director Cathy Maes before she retired, so the transition has been smooth.

Kiley Benson, executive director of Loaves and Fishes (Courtesy: Loaves and Fishes)

The nonprofit offers free, restaurant-quality, to-go meals at all 35 of its dining sites and serves sit-down meals at six locations.

Because the need is great in central Minnesota, the organization is expanding its services to St. Cloud starting on March 1.

“We’re currently opening up a warehouse and a commissary kitchen all under the same roof,” Benson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “That’s different than we do it down here. That’s important because when food rescue comes in, and it might not have the lifeline to be redistributed, we’re able to take that directly into our commissary kitchen and get it prepared for prepared meals to be on a site.”

Benson said Loaves and Fishes has had food rescue partners in St. Cloud for more than 10 years, so it’s a good fit and they expect to be busy.

“We’re thinking that we’re going to open up preparing 600 meals a day out of the commissary kitchen and prepared meals that will go out to our partners and distribute their meal,” Benson said. “And right now, anywhere from one to 2,000 people weekly around the food rescue efforts.”

Loaves and Fishes served a record 4.6 million meals in 2022.

“We’ve just continued to really press in around small families and individuals that we didn’t really see at our sites before,” Benson noted. “We want to make sure that people are just aware that there’s a free meal available to you that feels and looks just like a restaurant meal. The only difference is we don’t give you a tab when you leave.”

Loaves and Fishes serves meals at 130 outlets in 13 Minnesota counties. All are welcome to come and eat or to volunteer.