While the costs of fresh produce and meat continue to rise, there is one volunteer-run organization working hard to ensure that everyone can afford nutrition. Introducing the Twin Cities’ best kept secret: Fare For All!
For only $20, you can stop by a Fare For All distribution center and pick up 15 pounds of fresh produce and 4-5 packages of meat - a price that is 40-50% cheaper than average grocery chains. How is this possible? I had a chat with Scott Weatherhead, the Program Manager, to find out.
A mobile program of The Food Group in New Hope, Fare For All began in 1986 under a different name and company. But, their main goal has always been to bring sustenance to people who cannot always reach it. They promote equity and have been working ensure that everyone can benefit from their selection. There are no sign-ups, no income requirements, and no restrictions. Plus, FFA accepts payment in almost all forms, as participants of the EBT program. But, FFA does not advertise, so it is up to you and friendly neighbors to spread the word!
Fare For All is driven by volunteers and by larger corporations that lend their employees and time to packaging and distribution. Scott first got involved with the program by volunteering years ago, and was asked to help lead the program’s expansion. Fare For All works sort of like a co-op: the more people participating, the better. This is because Fare For All purchases bulk orders of food, including produce from local wholesalers and CSA’s. They receive large donations frequently: for example, a program called Lost Harvest in Arizona and New Mexico was found to be dumping tons of fresh produce every year, due to low demand. Fare For All stepped in and now rescues 60,000 pounds of fruits and veggies from Lost Harvest, which often come during the winter when little is growing in Minnesota.
Having fresh produce and meat for such a low price is important. When nutritious foods are too expensive, it is easy to resort to cheaper and less healthy alternatives, such as chips and and sugary treats. So, Fare For All wants to continue to “make good foods affordable so you don’t have to buy the bad stuff.”
In the past 5 years, FFA has improved in both quantity and quality of food offered, while maintaining the same low prices. There is lots of variety in one produce package, which sells for $10 alone (without meat) and always offers potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, and seasonal selections which can include delicious foods such as mangoes and avocados. Holiday packages are also available, which can feed a family of 8 for under $30!
Each day of the month, FFA visits 2 places, in a constant rotation of dozens of distribution locations. The distribution time lasts for about 2 hours, during which they typically see around 85 people. The Hallie Q. Brown Community Center located at 270 N. Kent Street is the closest center to Frogtown. Fare For All will be there May 18 at 4pm - feel free to check it out and bring friends! More upcoming dates and locations can be found at: https://fareforall.org/find-a-site/.
Scott emphasizes that everyone is welcome, regardless of background and income level. The process is simple: come to the Hallie Q. Brown Center, pick your food and pay - you will be greeted by nice volunteers, happy people, and even free pastries. Hope to see you there!