Why We Give: Turning donations and food into jobs and meals for those who need them most

The season of thanks is here and KSTP is highlighting organizations we are thankful for.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is proud to be a partner in the Minnesota Central Kitchen initiative. It brings together restaurants, caterers and hunger-fighting organizations to tackle hunger and industry layoffs brought on by the pandemic.

At a time when most of the foodservice industry is shut down, Kane’s Catering in St. Paul is busy assembling 650 hot and cold meals a day. They are delivered, Monday through Friday, to people experiencing homelessness by Involve Minnesota.

Ethan is one of the drivers. He understands what the people he’s helping are going through.

"So me personally, I’ve had experience with homelessness before," Ethan said. "And I think that a big thing that these people out here really need is for someone to understand where they’re coming from. And just understand that there’s certain situations and there’s such a big, diverse group of reasons why people are homeless."

Every single person we met while with the Involve Minnesota drivers expressed gratitude for the gift of a meal and a kind word.

"You don’t get conversations with smiles all that often out here" said a man named Jack, who is living in an encampment in St. Paul. "So when he comes, he’s a happy guy and he pumps you up and fills you up. And you carry on to the next day."

"I mean when someone says thank you, of course it feels amazing," Ethan said. "It makes my heart full knowing that they’re thankful for what we’re doing for them."

Also thankful are the restaurant workers who have jobs right now with Kane’s Catering. Owner Jack Kane has actually had to hire people and now has 15 employees. Their salaries and the food are paid for with grants from Second Harvest Heartland and Involve Minnesota.

Nobody planned for a pandemic or record demand for food. But thanks to good people coming together, Minnesota Central Kitchen is making a difference.

"This is inside of our community," Ethan said. "And all of us as members of the community, I feel like we have the responsibility to makes sure that our neighbors, whether they’re housed or not, are getting everything that they need."

Second Harvest Heartland offers free assistance for anyone who is hungry, no questions asked.