Executive Director, The Food Group
When people struggle to find enough to eat, they often find themselves turning to a local food shelf for assistance. Canned goods and other non-perishable food items are important and appreciated, but fresh, nutritious, and culturally-specific food can be hard to come by—particularly for those struggling with hunger who count on on the charitable hunger relief system to help feed their families.
Enter Lori Kratchmer, Executive Director of The Food Group—a food bank that works to provide more than 200 local hunger relief organizations with wholesome food for diverse communities.
“I believe that all people should have access to foods that are familiar to them and that their families will enjoy,” Lori said. “Food is a basic right, and no one in our country should go to bed hungry at night.”
Nutrition and Health as Core Values
Nutritious food and the health of the community are two values at the core of The Food Group’s work. “The strong correlation between chronic diseases and hungry adults motivates me and everyone at The Food Group to work to increase access to healthier foods,” Lori explained. “Access to healthier foods is our passion, and it permeates all of our programming and community partnerships.”
From providing bulk purchasing opportunities for their food shelf partners to collecting surplus produce from farmers, vendors and customers at the Minneapolis Farmers Market—The Food Group has a number of programs that work to provide healthy food access to those they serve.
The food bank also provides nutritional outreach in the form of a full-time registered dietitian. The dietitian provides nutrition education and consulting to partner agencies and the people they serve—including recipe creation, food demonstrations, product merchandising, and technical support in creating healthy food policies. The dietitian also provides nutritional analysis to all of The Food Group’s programs.
Familiar Foods for Diverse Communities
The Food Group also focuses on providing culturally-specific foods to their diverse communities. “The Food Group champions cultural equity in hunger relief across Minnesota by leading the effort for hunger relief agencies to be welcoming, inclusive, and dignified resources for all,” Lori said.
The food bank does so through the Cultural Equity Program, where it sources culturally-appropriate food items for Latino, East African, West African and Southeast Asian populations. “These kinds of foods are harder to find, and they tend to be more expensive for our food shelf partners to source,” Lori explained. “Thanks to some specific funding we’ve received, we’re able to provide these food items to our food shelf partners for free. We are extremely proud of this work, and it will continue to be a top priority for The Food Group.”
The Food Group is also focusing efforts on implementing a cultural responsiveness toolkit for their food shelf partners and creating a hunger advocacy alliance to advance cultural equity in hunger relief.
Forty Years and Going
As The Food Group reaches its 40th year, Lori recognizes that the fight is not over—but is hopeful about the future.
“The Food Group continues to provide solutions to fight hunger. Our solutions focus on ensuring food shelves and meal programs across the state have the quality food they need, elderly and disabled subsidized housing residents have fewer barriers to accessing food, and community members have a reduced cost option to eat healthy on a budget,” Lori told us. “We will continue to search for new solutions and effective ways to help those in our community find stability through having their basic needs met.”