They left their jobs during the pandemic to fight hunger in Minnesota

The number of people who need help finding healthy meals remains high this summer. That’s why 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is Feeding Minnesota. And now, the Cargill Foundation is stepping up to match donations to Minnesota Central Kitchen.

Minnesota Central Kitchen brings together restaurants, caterers and hunger-fighting organizations to tackle hunger and service-sector layoffs brought on by the pandemic.

More than 100 organizations, from Second Harvest Heartland to commercial kitchens, food donors and meal distributors, are working together to feed Minnesotans.

"And so we started doing that during the pandemic, to use rescued food and to re-employ, and we will continue doing it after," Robin Manthie the director of Minnesota Central Kitchen, said. "Because what we found is there’s a great need for these comforting meals that are prepared and ready to go. And so we’re planning to grow even coming out of the pandemic."

Manthie left a job in corporate America to join the fight against hunger.

"I was working in corporate strategy but also spending my time volunteering at my local food shelf. And I really enjoyed being in the community working alongside some of my peers," she said. "I wanted to do that every day. And I saw an opportunity with Minnesota Central Kitchen."

"It’s very satisfying," said Joe Kunitz, Minnesota Central Kitchen’s program specialist. "It feels really good to work in a mission-based organization; everybody’s pulling the same direction."

Kunitz is a professional chef who also followed his heart to Minnesota Central Kitchen. He uses his experience working in Twin Cities restaurants to plan meals with chefs in 10 different commercial kitchens. The menu is all based on food donations available that day. They make up to 25,000 meals a week.

"So I get to, you know, talk shop with the kitchens, work on a little bit of menu planning based on what we have at the time," Kunitz said. "And then we figure out how to get a good restaurant-quality meal out the door."

Making meals in the community for the community, that’s Minnesota Central Kitchen. And now the Cargill Foundation is matching every gift, dollar for dollar. So when you give to Minnesota Central kitchen, it will have twice the impact.