"ICA Food Shelf breaks ground at new site", Sun Sailor, March 2014

Stephanie Gonyou
Sun Sailor
March 11, 2014

Larger space will allow for larger client base

The ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka will soon be able to serve more people more often with the expansion site now under construction on K-Tel Drive.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new site was held Monday, Feb. 10. The ICA had been using the site for warehouse space in the past. After realizing it had potential, the staff decided it could be used for things bigger than storage.

The current sites serve more than 800 families each month, adding up to more than 1100 food services each month. The ICA is able to provide between 40 and 50 pounds of food for each individual per visit.

Since the new 13,400-square-foot site is considerably larger than the current site, the ICA will continue to store bulk donations there as well as serve their clients. Public relations and communications specialist Laura Swenson is looking forward to having everything in one place.

“The logistics are simplified and efficient and saves us money, which helps our clients,” Swenson said.

At the K-Tel site, clients will have the opportunity to participate in a choice model food shelf. With a choice model, clients will still be provided a list of nutritionally-sound groceries to bring home, but they will have options between a variety of choices instead of being given one item without input.

The current prepackaged model practiced at the ICA provides clients with a certain number of specific types of products based on the families’ needs. There are A-bags, B-bags and C-bags, each bag containing a different set of groceries. Clients are sent home with the combination of bags that will best suit their needs.

Executive Director Peg Keenan believes offering a choice model to clients will provide them with a sense of self-respect that they can’t feel otherwise.

“People feel a greater sense of dignity when they get to select their own food,” Keenan said.

Clients who prefer the anonymity of the prepackaged model can continue to visit the St. David’s Road and Mount Calvary Lutheran Church locations. It’s important to Keenan to have both options available.

The mobile food shelf service will also continue serving clients that are disabled, elderly or for some other reason can’t make the trip.

At the K-Tel road site, clients will have the opportunity to visit three times each month instead of once or twice like at the current locations. This will provide them with more access to fresh produce and, in turn, a healthier diet.

According to the Hunger in Minnesota Campaign, a project working to close Minnesota’s gap in missing meals and a general hunger problem, 600,000 Minnesotans are missing 100,000 million meals every year.

While the ICA acts as a supplemental grocery provider and doesn’t have the ability to fulfill a family’s entire grocery need, the staff at the ICA Food Shelf is happy to be a part of the solution. The ICA Food Shelf works independently from the Hunger in Minnesota Campaign.

The new site will be open later than the current sites, and Keenan believes this will help the ICA reach more people. The convenience of later hours makes it easier for people with obligations during the day to stop by on their way home.

The main goal of the food shelf is to help their clients through a tough time. Swenson is confident expanding their campus will reinforce that mission.

“Our goal is to get people back on their feet,” Swenson said. “If they’re unemployed or underemployed – if we can help in any way to get them out of that, that’s our goal.”

Starting a Capital Campaign was one of the first steps to the expansion process. This allowed for donors to make pledges spread over a course of a few years. One donor, Keenan said, made a three-year pledge.

Keenan said they need $565,000 total, and have raised all but $32,000.

The new site will open whether or not the rest is raised before the grand opening, but she said any donation counts and can help them achieve their goal of helping more people each year.

Construction at the new site should wrap up in late April, and Keenan expects to have it running in May.