The Camden Promise

Feeding those in need on the Northside

This article was written by Connor Cummiskey

Despite the addition of new locations, local food shelves may only be scratching the surface of the need for food in North Minneapolis.

Four days a week Northside residents line up outside the Gethsemane Lutheran Church at the corner of Colfax and 47th Avenues to receive food from The Camden Promise.

Lately those lines have been longer as more workers are being laid off or are otherwise in need of food assistance, according to Pastor Jeff Nehrbass.

“What we are seeing is that our numbers are doubling in terms of clients coming to the food shelf looking for food,” Nehrbass said.

The food gets sorted into boxes that include deli, dairy, bakery, fresh produce and protein. Each box also includes shelf-stable food from Second Harvest Heartland and Minnesota Food Group, Nehrbass said.

“We do what’s called food rescue,” Nehrbass said. “We pick up the food that three Cub stores would otherwise throw away.”

Along with the food box from Camden Promise guests also receive a free dinner, prepared by the food shelf.

To receive food people just need to show up and tell volunteers how many people they have in their households.

The food shelf also is seeing new people showing up, because they know food is available.

The Camden Promise gives out 65,000 to 80,000 pounds of food during the typical month. In the four weeks since COVID-19 hit Minnesota the food shelf gave out 210,000 pounds of food, Nehrbass said.

In light of that increased demand, the food shelf worked with three Northside churches to open new food shelves. Those new locations are at Greater Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, 1800 Dupont Ave. N.; New Oil Christian Center, 4050 Upton Ave. N. and the Minneapolis Central Church of Christ, 1922 4th Ave. N.

“What we’re learning is that the number of people going to the food shelves at the new locations equal our own,” Nehrbass said. “What we thought was addressing a need, we realized we haven’t even scratched the surface of what the growing need is for food insecurity in North Minneapolis.”

So far the supply of food coming into the food shelf has kept up with demand, but there has been a noticeable dip in the volume of food rescued, Nehrbass said.

Right now the food shelf is in need of three things. The first is financial resources, and the second is volunteers to help move food and distribute it at the church. The third thing the church needs is a way to transport food, so that it can bring it to the most vulnerable populations.

“What we’re seeing in this economic downturn is bringing people of all classes and ages and infirmities out, because we all have to eat,” Nehrbass said. “But it is much more dangerous for the elderly and for the infirm to come out.”

The Camden Promise has a driver, but what it really needs is a vehicle. “The brass ring for us would be someone who wants to donate a cargo van to the church,” Nehrbass said.

The Camden Promise is a non-profit organization serving the Camden Community in North Minneapolis. It is a partnership between Gethsemane Lutheran Church, NuWay Baptist Missionary Baptist Church and Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Until the recent addition of three new food shelves, The Camden Promise was the only food shelf in North Minneapolis, Nehrbass said.