Three short weeks after renovations began inside of Shiloh Temple International in North Minneapolis, Shiloh Cares Food Shelf opened its doors to the public. It's new manager and volunteers weren't experienced in running a full-service food shelf. But they were determined to open before the holidays, the time when their community experiences the biggest lack.
"It's been amazing to see the smiles and the dignity that we've brought back to this community because they know we got a place to eat," said Jalilia Abdul-Ahad, manager of Shiloh Cares Food Shelf. "FFEN has been invaluable for us getting off the ground, being efficient, and making people feel heard and seen. And it's just a blessing to be a blessing."
Shiloh Cares opened on Nov. 19th and served 742 people within its first three days. They'll be open Wednesday through Friday each week, so that number will increase exponentially. The transition to a weekly food shelf operating under a client-choice model is a sizable leap for Shiloh Temple. For the past five years, the church served as a bi-weekly food rescue operation, giving free food to community members just a few times a month.
The Shiloh Cares Community
Poverty rates remain a key example of a phenomenon known as the "Minnesota paradox." The term refers to the fact that, although as a state Minnesota is better off than many parts of the nation, that same good fortune has not yet reached Minnesota's BIPOC (black, indigenous, and persons of color) populations. Minnesota's average poverty rate for persons of color is 26%, compared to a 23% national average for persons of color. Shiloh Cares sits in a community directly affected by this racial disparity.
"We are actually in the heart of North Minneapolis, where we have the highest eviction, poverty, and hunger rates in the state of Minnesota," Jalilia said. "To say this food shelf is a need is an understatement."
The unrest following the killing of George Floyd in May resulted in the looting of their one community grocery store, Cub Foods, further diminishing access to food.
"North Minneapolis is a community that has experienced a lot of institutional racism, has a high percentage of poverty, and there's very limited access to real food resources," explained Kate Burggraff, Executive Director of FFEN. "This is an urban food desert area. Shiloh Temple was one of the organizations that were requested to step up, and so they've focused on increasing their home-delivery model and also starting a bricks-and-mortar food shelf called Shiloh Cares."
Food insecurity is tied to poverty, low education rates, and crime, all of which afflict North Minneapolis neighborhoods. COVID-19 and its effects, along with the aftermath of George Floyd's killing, added heavier burdens to an already strained community.
"A lot of people in this community are dealing with PTSD, but George Floyd's killing and the looting and the rioting added to that," said Jalilia, who works full-time as a Violence Prevention Specialist in partnership with the City of Minneapolis. "Then you add COVID, a lack of food on top of that. We're dealing with trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma. All put in a pot together that creates an environment of crime and hate, then leads to the uprising that we saw and are still experiencing here."
Building Shiloh's Bricks-and-Mortar Food Shelf
Volunteers cheered the day electricians came to set up the wiring in Shiloh Cares. Then coolers and freezers were installed into the 800-square foot space that FFEN's volunteers redesigned into four grocery pickup zones that people could push a cart through in three minutes each.
"We were asked to help them find a way to open a COVID-friendly food shelf that could
serve the community indoors, especially during the harsh winter months of Minnesota," said Sue Gillman, FFEN Project Manager and Board member. "Being able to guide them into decisions so they can extend their dollars are things that I think have been really valuable for them."
Sue worked with the volunteers at Shiloh Cares nearly every day until its grand opening. Although thousands of pounds of food may be available, many food shelf managers aren't sure where to access these resources or how best to keep track of them once they've reached the shelf.
"FFEN, oh my goodness, has been invaluable," said Jalilia. "FFEN helped us with everything so new to us from the architectural structure, food ordering, set up, electrical wiring placement, shelving, all the way down to the computer systems we should use and data to put in it. Without having someone hold our hand through this process almost like a big sister or big brother, I would say, without FFEN, we wouldn't be where we are."
The Vision of Shiloh Cares
Running a food shelf out of the church was a goal shared by Jalilia, who also serves a pastor at Shiloh Temple, Senior Pastor Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr., and his wife Pastor Bettye Howell. But Jalilia's drive to take on food insecurity in predominantly black communities has roots in her own personal experiences with hunger.
"Growing up in the city of Chicago, I was in an area with high poverty and high crime, although there were organizations like the Black Panthers and different organizations that would try to help people of color," Jalilia shared. "I grew up with parents who were drug addicts, and they would be gone for days. And so my siblings and I would be without food for days. We had to decide if we would eat food that had cockroaches in it or would we not eat because that's all we had. So food insecurity is a big thing for me, and that's where my passion came from to open up the food shelf here in the middle of the largest black community in the City of Minneapolis."
On the day of Shiloh Cares' grand opening, Jalilia cut the red ribbon and opened the food shelf's doors to the public for the first time. Jalilia was accompanied by Senior Pastor Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr., and his wife Pastor Bettye Howell, fellow church staff, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, partners from FFEN, Hunger Solutions, and other organizations who'd invested in the community she loves.
"We were asked to help them find a way to open a COVID-friendly food shelf that could serve the community indoors, especially during the harsh winter months of Minnesota," said Sue Gillman, FFEN Project Manager and Board member. "Being able to guide them into decisions so they can extend their dollars are things that I think have been really valuable for them."ood shelf's doors to the public for the first time. Jalilia was accompanied by Senior Pastor Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr., and his wife, Pastor Bettye Howell, fellow church staff, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, partners from FFEN, Hunger Solutions, and other organizations who'd invested in the community she loves.
Your donation increases safe and predictable access to fresh food in communities like North Minneapolis.