In honor of Hunger Action Month in September, HFSP donates time and financial resources to four local food shelves in Mower County’s rural communities.

The Hometown Food Security Project is determined to end food insecurity in all of Mower County. While most of the county’s population is rooted in Austin, Minn., there are many others in the surrounding rural communities of Mower County that need help maintaining consistent access to food.

The HFSP is responding to this reality, as members of the project’s dedicated coalition recently visited four food pantries in the county’s rural communities to better understand their services, challenges and client needs. Furthermore, in honor of Hunger Action Month in September, the HFSP presented each pantry — located in the following Minnesota cities: Racine, Le Roy, Grand Meadow and Adams — with a donation to support their respective efforts, donations made possible by a gift from Hormel Foods.

“It’s just incredible,” said Tracey Hoover, director of the Racine Food Shelf. “We certainly weren’t expecting a donation, and so to be presented with one like that, it was just so overwhelming and unexpected, and we are so grateful. It will really make a big difference in the lives of our clients so they can get the food items they depend on.”

The HFSP coalition believes that visiting food shelves throughout Mower County is a strategic and meaningful approach to address the issue of food security in a complete and comprehensive way. It allows coalition members to build stronger relationships with local organizations and volunteers while allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by different areas of the county.

“It’s just an opportunity for us to reaffirm the geographic scope of our Hometown Food Security Project and our coalition, which has always been Mower County,” said Molly Lanke, executive director, United Way of Mower County. “Now that our coalition is a little more established, we have our goals, our objectives identified. Now it’s really time to put our boots on the ground and get out in the community, and these rural site visits seemed like a logical first step because they’re just as much a part of this effort as anyone else.”

Austin accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Mower County population, but focusing solely on Austin may inadvertently leave out vulnerable populations in other parts of the county. By visiting food shelves outside of Austin, the HFSP can ensure that its coalition’s efforts are more equitable and inclusive, reaching underserved communities that might be otherwise overlooked.

Different communities require different solutions to solve their food security issues. By visiting food shelves in diverse areas, the HFSP gathered insight into what strategies are working and what needs improvement, allowing the coalition to adapt and tailor its approaches accordingly.

“Visiting local food resources in Mower County is vital to the success of the Hometown Food Security Project, as it is our mission to ensure the entire county is food secure,” said Sneha Jogi, communication manager of global impact at Hormel Foods and leading member of the HFSP. “A majority of these rural food shelves are volunteer-run and require different resources to ensure success. You could feel the sense of community, passion and dedication at each of these locations, which is why they are able to feed so many people in the community.”