Feeding Our Community Through Creative Collaboration

Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office Steps Up to the Plate

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of retired volunteers from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office stepped up to the plate (literally) to make sure that Catholic Charities’ programs and other local food shelves were able to maintain a steady supply of fresh food. Using connections with Hy-Vee, Bix Produce Co., and Sysco, the retired deputies were able to source thousands of pounds of fresh, high-quality food. John Maslowski, a retired commander and volunteer from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, noted that many food shelves serve individual households that are not able to use bulk foodstuffs, so they needed to partner with an organization that could quickly utilize that volume, and “Catholic Charities was the perfect fit.” Since many restaurants and food facilities were closed during this time, established food donors and volunteers were also out of commission—making this creative approach to food distribution absolutely vital as our teams worked hard to keep our guests and residents healthy.

 

 

A Very Special Delivery

Most Tuesday and Thursday mornings since the spring of 2020, this group of dedicated volunteers has delivered healthy food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, to Catholic Charities’ Distribution Center in St. Paul—current totals exceed 125,000 pounds! Once delivered, the donations are divided and sent to multiple Catholic Charities program locations. Food services staff never know what to expect and purposing large amounts of food nearing the end of its shelf life is no easy feat. This is where folks like Kitchen Manager Bernie Medlock and Food Service Supervisor Mike DeJong step in.

From Box Trucks to Dinner Tables

Following a delivery to the Distribution Center, Medlock and DeJong receive the call to craft recipes based on the newly available ingredients. With over eighty percent of Catholic Charities’ food supply coming from donations, including those from longtime partners like Second Harvest Heartland, the kitchens at Catholic Charities’ programs need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

“We’re almost the opposite of a restaurant where they build their menus and then they go out and purchase items. We, on the other hand, wait to see what we get donated and then we build our menus based on that.” — Mike DeJong

If you’ve ever found yourself combing through your fridge wondering, “what should I make for dinner tonight?”, you can appreciate the level of ingenuity and flexibility that kitchen staff need to employ daily to ensure that thousands of our neighbors have access to healthy meals. Medlock notes that the donated food has made a huge difference in the ability to “go from having something basic to having something really good.”

Food for Thought

After spearheading the acquisition and delivery of food, Maslowski reflects on his work with a sense of achievement. Last year they “delivered to Catholic Charities alone, in excess of 37,000 pounds of food for people in need…we’re very proud of that.” Catholic Charities and the people we serve are grateful for the steadfast support from our friends at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. As DeJong succinctly puts it, “our people are going through so much. To not worry about getting good food is a blessing, it’s huge…we appreciate it, but more so our guests appreciate it.”
 

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