In each county and district in Minnesota, people face the difficulties of figuring out where their next meal may come from, or if it will come at all. According to a study done by Feeding America, a nationwide non-profit organization that provides a network of over 200 foodbanks, more than 400,000 people in Minnesota are facing hunger. Two local community centers are trying to combat these numbers.
HALLIE Q. BROWN COMMUNITY CENTER
The Hallie Q. Brown Community Center (HQBCC) at 270 N. Kent St., has been serving the community since 1929. The HQBCC focuses on six core service areas: early childhood education, basic needs like a food shelf and clothing closet, youth enrichment, seniors, historical archives and multi-service hub programming.
“Organizations like ours provide services and access to resources that people need, as well as programming and opportunities that improve their quality of life,” said Hallie Q. Brown Community Center Executive Director Jonathan Palmer. “What makes the HQBCC unique is that while we serve everyone, we are the only multi-service center of our kind in St. Paul with an African American identity and focus.”
Their food shelf provides culturally specific foods, allergy/diet restricted such as gluten free and vegan, religion restricted such as kosher or halal, and pet food for those in need. According to Palmer, the services they provide aim to bring security. They are a place that people can always connect with when they are in need and know that their challenges will be addressed and they will be treated with dignity and respect. Each of the programs that the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center provides are structured to reduce need, so families and individuals are able to devote their income to other necessities.
“We help individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and empower them for a better life. And we all do better when we all do better,” Palmer said.
As a part of their six core service areas, the HQBCC also includes a community archive which is a repository of the records, photographs and history of the Rondo Neighborhood and the African American community in Saint Paul. This aims to help address families and individuals with history in mind and includes culture as an integral part of how they address needs in the community.
Readers can donate money via their website at https://www.hallieqbrown.org/site/index.php/get-involved/donate/. In addition to donating, readers can donate time through volunteering, organizing a food or resource drive, and sharing the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center’s story.
“The services we provide have a cultural fluency that uplifts and empowers BIPOC communities, ensuring that we’re addressing the whole person and not simply one need,” Palmer said.
Open Hands Midway
Open Hands Midway (436 Roy St.) has been serving the community since 2003. Every Monday and Wednesday, Open Hand Midway provides meals for those in need. On Tuesdays once a month, they have a food shelf for individuals and families who need groceries. While they do not always provide specialty foods for their hot meals, they will often provide an alternative option for that meal. Readers can view what the hot meal will be on the calendar events page of Open Hands Midway’s website at https://www.openhandsmidway.org/what-do-we-do.
Their mission states, “Our mission is to serve the St. Paul Midway and surrounding area by leveraging contributors’ gifts in providing a means for those who are economically challenged to obtain nutritious meals, groceries and personal supplies, along with access to an array of community resources.”
Open Hands Midway also offers other essential services like pet food so that people do not have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pet. They aim to provide a holistic care approach that addresses more than just food, but also services like getting people in touch with help finding housing or help figuring out how they’ll pay rent this month. At each meal program, a registered nurse is present in order to check blood pressure and assist individuals in any way that they can.
“Food is a basic life necessity and we are providing that for free so that people can use their limited financial resources for other things,” said Kay Kuehn, executive director of Open Hands Midway.
The entirety of the staff besides Kuehn and a part-time cook are volunteers. They offer referral connections with many organizations such as Hope Dental Clinic, Open Cities Health Center, and more. Readers can get information about volunteering and donating via Open Hands Midway website at https://www.openhandsmidway.org/get-involved.
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