Lyndale Neighborhood Food Action: The 48-hour Pop-Up Food Bank

When Kitchen Staff Goes Hungry

After the restaurants of Minneapolis were forced closed to try and slow the spread of Covid-19, most kitchen workers suddenly found themselves without work and pay. Fortunately, government unemployment benefits were there to soften the blow.

But not for everybody.

Lots of restaurant workers weren’t eligible for unemployment benefits — and they weren’t making all that much money to begin with. Nobody knew how long they’d be out of work, but families were already getting hungry.

Seeing the growing need for food and supplies, local members of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association quickly formed a plan — a pop-up food bank to deliver boxed provisions throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area to struggling workers and their families. Josh and Devin of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association and Powerplant Community Garden stepped up first and offered to donate produce. A simple fundraiser was launched and quickly gained traction. Within 24 hours over $3,000 dollars had been donated by Minneapolis restaurant workers. Meals on Wheels Minneapolis got on board, too, offering management support and introductions to area food producers.

Lyndale Neighborhood Food Action was launched the next day and a new Covid-19 food bank was born.

The checklist they put together to launch the operation was pretty simple:

  • A safe place to collect, pack, and distribute the food
  • Enough food to support 50 families for 4-5 days
  • Volunteers to make the deliveries
  • A simple software program to manage the pickups and deliveries

With the plan in hand, everything came together quickly:

  • Volunteers from the Lyndale Neighborhood Association occupied the local community building, replete with refrigeration and hand-washing facilities for volunteers
  • Donations came in, allowing volunteers to start placing bulk wholesale orders while other volunteers hit the phones for extra donations and just about anything they could get their hands on: shampoo, cooking oil, non-perishable food items and lots of boxes to pack the goods into
  • Local gardeners shared tomatoes and potatoes
  • Restaurant servers and bartenders stepped in to be available to make deliveries
  • Beacon, the text message-based dispatching platform we’ve built to connect people in need with people who can help, was set up.

Tethered to a personal hotspot, the volunteers were quickly trained to use Beacon for coordinating deliveries, and within 48 hours of a casual conversation in the community garden, the Lyndale Neighborhood Association assumed command of the entire operations. By the next day, initial deliveries were being made to families that were already 6 weeks out from their last paycheck.

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Right Place at the Right Time

Trek Medics hadn’t planned on participating in supply delivery, but with COVID-19 all around us, it was clearly an “all hands on deck” situation — do what you can with what you have.

Lyndale Neighborhood Food Action is making good on that, running an operation that now delivers groceries to 50+ families scattered around Minneapolis in 30 minutes or less!

We’re proud to have been able to help in a meaningful way and are glad to let the team continue using Beacon going forward. They have big plans, they have early adopters, and they’re incorporating more local farmers for produce to continue serving the most vulnerable. Subscribing to our philosophy of doing what you can with what you have, Lyndale Community Action is helping to keep the vulnerable fed.

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Update: How Quickly Things Can Change

While we were busy helping to meet the needs of underserved families in multiple locations across the US, one of our own suddenly and unexpectedly found himself in the middle of another national outbreak. On Wednesday, May 27th, our program manager, Jason Branton, was woken from a nap after a long day of managing deliveries by a flood of text messages and phone calls. “Are you seeing what’s going on?” one friend asked. “Are you safe?” another inquired.

Just blocks from his south Minneapolis apartment, throngs of enraged people were marching towards the Minneapolis Police 3rd precinct to protest the untimely death of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe,” they chanted. “I can’t breathe.”

In the midst of an outbreak that has been overwhelmingly killing African Americans and Latin Americans in the US as it suppresses respiratory drive, another fight was breaking out among the same communities, struggling to keep their breath. For the time being, at least, Lyndale is back on lockdown. We hope south Minneapolis can use this same grassroots empowerment to deliver justice and restore peace in these distressing times.

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