By Sal Mondelli
President & CEO

Early in February, Beth walked into 360 Communities Burnsville Family Resource Center for a food shelf appointment. Like all first-time food shelf customers in Burnsville, she met with one of our staff to have a conversation about her situation.

Financial Support Worker Natalie Schmidgall completed a financial screening to uncover any other barriers to self-sufficiency Beth could be facing. Natalie found that Beth, a single mother of two and a homeowner, had fallen into foreclosure. Her father had been living with her family and helping with finances, but he had moved out of the house. Then she lost her job. She continued to make her mortgage payments, but the financial strain made it impossible to keep up with insurance and home association fees. In order to keep her home, she would need to come up with about $3,500 to become current and stop the foreclosure process.

When it comes to the individuals and families we serve, hunger is merely a symptom of larger issues. Volunteers and staff at 360 Communities’ network of five food shelves in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Farmington, Lakeville, and Rosemount are aware of the complexity of a person’s hunger crisis. An estimated 30,000 Dakota County residents, including our food shelf customers, are experiencing poverty. And for many, poverty presents itself in multiple ways: poverty of nutrition, poverty of housing, poverty of safety, and poverty of support systems, to name several.

A food emergency situation allows 360 Communities to start the conversation with our food shelf customers so that we can fully understand their needs, and then see if there are ways we can help them with additional resources and programs.

In their conversation, Beth told Natalie that she had already reached out to other agencies, but was unable to get help with her housing situation. Natalie asked more questions and discovered that Beth was an Army veteran and had been deployed overseas during the 1990s. Natalie connected Beth with Dakota County Veteran Services and helped her apply for a grant through the State Soldier’s Assistance Program. The grant is in place to help qualified veterans with shelter, catastrophic loss, or utilities. Natalie helped Beth ensure all the paperwork and proper documentation was submitted and Beth has been interviewed by the program. If approved, the grant could help her avoid foreclosure.

Beth’s story is another instance where 360 Communities was able to help a food shelf customer beyond food. But emergency food is where the conversation started about how to help Beth on her journey back to self-sufficiency. You can help 360 Communities start more conversations by supporting our food shelves during the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. This annual food drive benefits about 300 food shelves across the state, including 360 Communities’ network of five food shelves. Throughout the month of March, you have an opportunity to increase the impact of your food donations that help families like Beth’s.

360 Communities would like to raise $75,000 and 75,000 pounds of food during this campaign, enough to feed 22,500 people for a week. For every $10 donated, we can purchase $30 worth of groceries with our access to discount food programs. In addition, every donation to our food shelves in the month of March, food or money, will generate a larger portion of Minnesota FoodShare’s grant distribution for 360 Communities, further stretching the impact of your gift.

360 Communities can do more with your food shelf donations. We can change lives and strengthen communities.