For Minnesotans, March represents a lot of different things: crazy weather, the start of spring, St. Patrick’s Day.
But for many that rely on Minnesota’s many food shelves, March is a pivotal month as it marks the annual Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign.
Minnesota FoodShare is a program created by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.
Launched in 1982, it was created as a way to encourage congregations to help re-stock food shelves in the seven-county area of the Twin Cities after the holiday season. After the inaugural year, the program was so successful, it became an annual event.
Now, each March the Minnesota FoodShare hosts the fundraiser that has grown to help 300 food shelves statewide. They have even launched a Harvest Campaign as well.
A large contributor to the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign is Twin Cities’ food co-operatives.
“The Twin Cities is unique in that it has more food co-operatives per capita than any other place in the United States,” Tom Vogel, from Minneapolis’ Seward Community Co-op said.
Each March, these co-operatives come together to help raise money by asking their customers to round up after every purchase.
“For the last several years, we’ve been working together so we all can communicate with our ownership, [and] our shoppers, about the importance of it,” Vogel said.
In 2016, the group as a whole raised $110,000. For 2017, they are hoping to raise $120,000.
But it isn’t just during Minnesota FoodShare’s March Campaign that these co-operatives are working to raise money for local nonprofits. After being a part of the campaign, several co-ops began implementing their own donation system. Including Seward Co-op.
Located in Minneapolis, the Seward Co-op has been serving the Seward neighborhood since 1972.
In 2010, Seward Co-op got involved with Minnesota FoodShare. Just one year later, it launched its SEED program.
“We would do the participation, food donations and the roundup, and our customers started asking, ‘Hey, why don’t you do this all the time?’ And that got us to initiate the program that is SEED,” Vogel said.
SEED is a roundup program where customers are invited to round their bill up to the nearest dollar at the register. Since its inception, the program has raised $1.3 million.
Each month, a different nonprofit is the recipient of the donations. The 12 recipients are chosen at the beginning of the year by a group of Seward Co-op representatives. Every three months, it is a food shelf.
This March, it is Isuroon.
Isuroon, a Somali word meaning “woman who cares for herself,” is a food shelf in the Seward neighborhood that is dedicated to empowering women.
“In addition to the food shelf, it addresses things like health care, [and the] differences in views about medicine between eastern and western cultures, and how to treat illnesses,” Vogel said. “It’s actually become a community that can provide cultural insight into things.”
Seward began a relationship with Isuroon when it opened in 2010. Having been a SEED recipient prior, Seward was an integral part in helping Isuroon expand its physical space and product offerings.
While there are several characteristics that help a nonprofit become a SEED recipient, such as geographic location in relation to Seward and who the nonprofit affects, Vogel said Isuroon also shares similar views on women’s rights.
“This idea of really empowering women, giving them the ability and opportunity to make their own choices regarding the food they eat and the health care they receive, that was a major factor for us,” Vogel said. “It really worked out well that Isuroon could be the recipient during the Minnesota FoodShare drive.”
This year, Seward Co-op alone is hoping to raise $25,000 during the month of March.
To donate to SEED specifically, shoppers can round their purchases up to the nearest dollar.
Donations for Minnesota FoodShare month can be made at any local co-operatives, online or by dropping food off at any food shelf.