Tailoring FFEN's Engagement to Each Food Shelf

Back in March of 2020, Joyce Uptown Food Shelf no longer allowed clients in their building. The pandemic had reached Minnesota and it was clear that businesses and other gathering spaces needed to shift their models of interaction. And while operating their new pre-packed bag model, Joyce Uptown decided to take the opportunity to remodel and improve their space.

In a matter of months, and with the help of FFEN, they were able to redesign their building (located in a house!) to create a better flow and shopping experience while implementing a choice-model that allows clients to choose the foods they want just like at a grocery store.

Six months and a staffing transition later, their board decided that FFEN would be a useful resource for new staff members.

Matthew, Joyce Uptown’s new Executive Director has an extensive background in housing and homelessness, and Anna, their new Operations Coordinator comes from the hospitality and restaurant industry along with experience in non-profit work. While they’re both well positioned to succeed, FFEN’s expertise has helped them transition into their new roles, become quickly immersed in the hunger relief system, and learn the intricacies of food shelf operations.

“Coming into the food insecurity world, there are a lot of metrics that are not immediately apparent”, says Matthew. “FFEN helped us take a deep dive into our inputs and outputs, while also assisting us in identifying some grant and funding opportunities, as well as helping us do some mapping of our shoppers to better understand our footprint and geographic areas for outreach. It’s great to have a partner doing some of the heavy lifting on the data and programming side, so that we can get back to actual heavy lifting, breaking down boxes, composting, and all the other daily tasks required at a food shelf.”

Part of what makes FFEN unique is that food shelves have the option of engaging in the way that works best for them. Some decide they need help with a particular project, and others, like Joyce Uptown, continue with an ongoing partnership. “Each food shelf is different, so a one-size fits all approach doesn’t make sense. By tailoring our level of and type of engagement, food shelves get the help they need in the way that works best for them,” says FFEN Executive Director Kate Burggraff.

For Joyce Uptown, after transitioning to a client-choice model with the help of FFEN, they were able to increase the amount of food they provide on a monthly basis by 70% while also allowing clients to visit twice a month! This was accomplished all while maintaining the food cost per individual by fully maximizing food resources and prioritizing their sourcing to the most important food items. As the two look to the future, the partnership will work on ensuring funding is sustainable for new growth, continue to support increased produce distribution, explore client database needs, optimize mobile programming, and identify ongoing grant funding opportunities.