MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Doing good in the Twin Cities is complicated these days. The need for access to free food is high, but the number of volunteers is low.

WCCO found out how an organization called “Food Group” is taking a different spin on giving away food – and they could use some extra help.

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It starts in the ground – then ends up on store shelves. But somewhere in between, fresh produce gets expensive. Joyce Turner is an avid food shelf volunteer at Camden’s Promise via the Food Group.

“It’s very challenging for our clients to buy fresh produce. They don’t have the money to buy it,” she said.

Turner works as one of the busy food providing volunteers. She understands the need for food from both sides.

“When I was younger with my kids, it was always a great need,” she said.

So she’s trying to make sure people need less which amidst a pandemic can be tricky.

“The need is at historic highs and I think there is still huge question marks with unemployment benefits going down, eviction moratoriums ending,” she said.

Sophia Lenarz-Coy is leading a team at the Food Group in New Hope. This unique food supplier emphasizes quality over quantity.

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(credit: CBS)

“Everyone deserves access to the best foods, not just food, but the best, the most appropriate for their family and their culture, top quality,” said Lenarz-Coy, the executive director of Food Group,

They also emphasize organic produce. The Food Group distributes fresh organic food to over 200 metro food shelves, they fund an affordable grocer and they have their own farms. Lenarz-Coy explains, “We have sources all of this from local farmers, with an emphasis on immigrant farmers, farmers of color, so really small farmers making sure we can support their business.”

They rely on donations and they rely on volunteers.

“Honestly we are down volunteers right now and I am hearing that from partners across the board. It’s a hard time,” she said.

They need extra help packing food and going around to farms and harvesting leftover produce. Families are welcome, Lenarz-Coy said.

“When you can donate money or time, food is a really concrete way to have an impact on someone,” she added.

And Turner will continue to do just that. “All of the clients that come in, I know so many of them by heart now,” she said.

And here they use their hearts and hands to feed the need. Lenarz-Coy said,“I think it’s a really solvable thing and we can come together and make a difference.”

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If you would like to donate the Food Group, or help fill the volunteer gap, you can find out more information here.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield