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South Country Health Alliance | On the Road: Visiting Community Food Shelves

On the Road: Visiting Community Food Shelves

Written by Chris Gartner, Communications Manager

Last October, I had the privilege of traveling throughout the South Country Health Alliance service area to visit almost all the food shelves (28 out of 31!) available to low-income citizens in those counties.

South Country Health Alliance has much in common with the food shelves in our communities, serving a similar population: low-income residents of rural Minnesota. However, many people who qualify for our programs don’t know about our health plan. My goal in visiting the food shelves was to provide more information about South Country Health Alliance, educate staff about our role in their community, and drop off donations of toothbrushes and grocery bags for them to share with clients.

I met with amazing and dedicated directors, managers, and food shelf staff who were serving their communities by creating a safe and efficient place to provide food support for those needing a food resource. Everyone I met was eager to show off their stores and tell me about all the incredible things they do. It was clear that the food shelves operate on a shoestring budget and often rely on the community and volunteers for their existence. I also found that many food shelf staff vaguely knew about South Country Health Alliance, but did not know what our company does in their community.

This spring, I reached out to the food shelf staff I met to follow up with them after my visit last fall. Of the 28 stores I visited, 17 responded.

Here are there results:

  1. Did your clients take South Country Health Alliance materials during a visit?
    • 12 – Yes
    • 5 – A few
  2. Do you still have South Country Health Alliance materials? Need More?
    • 17 – Still have materials
    • 6 – Do not need more
    • 3 – Need brochures or posters
    • 5 – Could use more bags or toothbrushes
  3. Did your clients notice materials or ask about South Country Health Alliance?
    • 7 – No
    • 6 – Yes or Sometimes
    • 4 – Not sure
  4. Did you find the bags useful?
    • 17 – Yes
  5. Did you find the toothbrushes useful?
    • 17 – Yes
    • Comments: “Families loved them,” “Gone in short order,” “Clients appreciate them,” and “went like hotcakes”
  6. How else can South Country Health Alliance make clients more aware of our services?
    • Volunteers can point out brochure
  7. Other items you are in need of?
    • 6 – Personal hygiene items
    • 1 – Pens
    • 1 – Scratch pads/calendar
    • 1 – Tote bag
    • 5 – Not Really or Blank
  8. When during the year is a good time to visit your site?
    • 7 – Anytime
    • 4 – Fall
    • 3 – Summer
    • 1 – Spring
    • 1 – First week of month
  9. Did you find my visit informative?
    • 11 – Yes
    • 6 – Missed You or Blank

It is my goal to return to these food shelf stores this year and bring more information and education, and I am looking forward to catching up and meeting anyone I missed the first time around. Thank you to all those who took the time to talk with me and educate me on the important work being done in your communities.

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