United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) has partnered with the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Farmers to Families program to distribute boxes of free food on the Iron Range.
Through the program, farmers sell food previously destined for restaurants and bulk purchasers to distributors to prevent waste, and the USDA partners with local non-profits to distribute the food into communities.
Distribution will take place July 22 across the Iron Range. Each pickup site will have two free boxes of frozen meals to choose from: one contains two five-pound packages of barbecue pork patties and two five-pound packages of cheese, and the other contains two five-pound packages of chicken taco meat and two five-pound packages of cheese.
There are no income requirements to use this program – anyone in each town is eligible to drive up to distribution locations to take home a box.
“We are grateful that this USDA program does not have income guidelines so anyone who would like a box can have one, especially given the impacts of COVID-19 on grocery prices,” said UWNEMN Executive Director Shelley Valentini.
Nearly 2,000 frozen food boxes will be available for distribution between AEOA and UWNEMN; any leftover boxes will be shared among local food shelves.
UWNEMN will be hosting a distribution from 12-6 pm at their building (608 East Drive) in Chisholm. AEOA will be hosting distributions from 2 to 4 pm at Lees Business Center in Hibbing (2900 East Beltline) and from 2 pm to 4 pm until food is gone at its Virginia building (702 S 3rd Ave West).
“AEOA is proud to partner with a local agency like UWNEMN on this great program to get food to our local families during this stressful time,” said AEOA Executive Director Scott Zahorik.
Volunteers will be on hand in masks at each distribution site to direct traffic, record numbers served, and place food boxes into recipients’ vehicles for contactless distribution. Since the food is frozen, people are encouraged to bring coolers with ice to keep the food cold when bringing it home.