By Dana Nelson and Emily Paul of MCK
TCCP is a proud partner of Minnesota Central Kitchen (MCK), preparing 2,400 meals a week in our commissary kitchen and regularly donating unsaleable produce from Co-op Partners Warehouse. We reached out to learn a little bit more about them and their important work in addressing the hunger crisis.
What is MCK and why was it started?
MCK brings together restaurants, caterers, and hunger-fighting organizations to tackle hunger and service-sector layoffs brought on by the pandemic. We empower our state’s hospitality professionals to keep working at what they do best—feeding hungry people—while responding to the surging need for food assistance and rescuing donated food.
We provide prepared meals to anyone in need to respond to the surge in hunger and see communities through recovery. Special effort is made to serve Minnesotans who might not be able to cook or access prepared meals right now, including those who are sick, homebound, unhoused, frontline or essential workers, and the children and families whose caregivers are ill.
MCK was started with a phone call from Chowgirls Catering to Second Harvest Heartland; the Chowgirls team had a kitchen full of food and all their events had been cancelled by the onset of COVID. Second Harvest Heartland reached out to Loaves and Fishes who also had to re-invent their operations from a congregate dining setting to distributing take-out meals for their clients. The teams partnered together to begin preparing and distributing thousands of meals each day.
How is MCK meeting the demand as we face the economic downturn caused by the pandemic?
Depression-era hunger is here in our region, now. One in eight of us, including one in five kids, now lives with hunger as we enter the sixth month of the greatest health and economic crisis of our time. That means more Minnesotans than ever before are worried about their food budget, are skipping meals, and are staring into empty fridges, many for the first time in their lives.
Since the first meals were prepared and served in mid-March by founding partners, Chowgirls and Loaves and Fishes, we have expanded to 11 operating kitchens and are on track to prepare and distribute one million meals by Thanksgiving.
Where do the food and funds come from for preparing meals and paying staff?
The work of MCK wouldn’t be possible without financial and in-kind support from our very generous donors, including the Cargill Foundation, General Mills Foundation, Medtronic Foundation, Cloverfields Foundation, Pohlad Family Foundation, Humana Foundation, Boston Scientific, ReFED, The Good Acre, UnitedHealth Group and more than 2,000 individual donors.
We rely heavily on food donors and recovery partners, such as The Good Acre, and even Co-op Partners Warehouse (CPW) to provide donations for making meals!
Who are your partners in this effort?
We have 11 kitchens involved in this effort, from small restaurants to catering companies, from corporate dining sites to commissary kitchens like the Wedge Table commissary, along with all of our donation partners mentioned above.
Where are meals distributed?
We distribute food through several community organizations, including Loaves and Fishes, The Sanneh Foundation, Pillsbury United Communities, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, to name a few.
What’s the long-term vision for MCK?
Minnesota Central Kitchen is committed to meeting the increased need for prepared meals to help families during the pandemic and beyond. Our goal is to prepare and distribute another one million meals in 2021.
How can our co-op community help?
We would love your support! Make a financial contribution to support Minnesota Central Kitchen through Second Harvest Heartland’s website at www.2harvest.org.