Local nonprofit 'Loaves and Fishes' reaches 1 million meals served

December 25, 2018 07:44 AM

As Minnesotans celebrate the holidays, one thing many families wish they had more of is food.

The state's economy appears to be humming along but more people than ever are visiting food shelves.


The hunger relief nonprofit Loaves and Fishes just served its one-millionth meal of 2018. Five years ago, they served 300,000 free meals.

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Executive Director Cathy Maes says her board of directors saw a need and was not afraid of taking chances.

"So it's trying on different ideas and seeing what works. And [if we decide] if something doesn't work, we'll let it go,"  Maes said. 

Loaves and Fishes have expanded its dining sites from 10 to 27, including cities like Aitkin and Marshall. To get reach all over the state, they use a food truck. They have created their own farm. The non-profit has also built partnerships with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to reuse food and Second Harvest Heartland to open a new warehouse to help smaller non-profits save money on food. 

And none of it would work without 10,000 volunteers.

"We can't do that without volunteers," said Maes.

"Right now there's one in 10 people in this state who don't know where their next meal is coming from," said Hunger Solutions Minnesota Executive Director, Colleen Moriarty. "That alone is shocking I think."

According to Hunger Solutions Minnesota, in the last 10 years, unemployment in Minnesota has dropped from 7.8 percent to 3.4 percent. But at the same time, food shelf visits have risen from 1.9 million to more than 3.4 million.

"But the fact of the matter is that the cost of living has not kept up with the ability of people with lower income to make enough money to support themselves and to afford food," said Moriarty.

Moriarty says feeding programs like Loaves and Fishes play in important role in helping people who are right on the edge- guests like Anthony Baldwin.

"I have been coming here for a long time," said Baldwin. "I know the people that work here. They always seem to treat me nice."

"If you are hungry we are there for you," said Maes. "We have been there for you for one million meals." 

A sobering reminder that many Minnesotans are quietly struggling to put food on the table.

In 2019, Loaves and Fishes projects it will serve 1.3 million free meals. It relies on volunteers to feed hungry Minnesotans. It's easy to join the team

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Kevin Doran

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