David Peeples would like to invite you to brunch — in your own home. On the menu: hickory bacon and cinnamon rolls, hash browns and cheddar cheese, and more.
Peeples isn't a master chef or caterer. He's the new director of programs for the Food Group, a long-established food equity nonprofit in New Hope that works to normalize the growing need for assistance in putting food on the table, while building in fun and community. The tasty brunch boxes, available throughout March at a discount, are part of the organization's Fare For All program.
Peeples elaborates below on how the program works and why everyone — including you — is invited to try it.
Q: Please tell us about Fare For All.
A: It's a low-cost grocery program that is operated by the long-standing Food Group, which is focused on using nutritious food to strengthen community. We buy fresh produce and frozen meat in bulk from wholesalers and manufacturers nationally and regionally to find the best deals. Volunteers at our warehouse in New Hope pack the produce and meat into food bags that range in price from $10 to $30. Volume buying keeps prices down. These packages are then sold directly to consumers through 32 monthly distributions sites.
Q: How far is your reach?
A: We have locations in the Twin Cities and all the way out to Red Wing, Northfield, Buffalo and more.
Q: Because, as it's important to note, hunger is found everywhere.
A: Hunger impacts rural and urban residents. We have so many different types of people, including families with children, older and single adults. Some also shop at Whole Foods, some use SNAP or EBT. We have a wide variety of customers because of the variety, selection, access and affordability.
Q: And yet, people might wonder if their participation in Fare For All will prevent someone with lesser means of getting the meal assistance they need. How do you respond to that concern?
A: We follow a co-op model, so actually the more people who shop Fare For All sales, the better the value becomes for everyone.
Q: Do customers need to sign up in advance?
A: No registration is required. You can just show up at any of our monthly food sites.
Q: Yikes — do you ever run out of food?
A: Very rarely. However, it can happen, particularly during the extra busy holiday season. Generally, though, everything is pre-planned to make sure we have enough food — and enough volunteers, also.
Q: Speaking of volunteers, you also wear that hat.
A: One great thing about my role is going out into the community at Fare For All sites. What I'm seeing is everyone feels proud to shop at Fare For All because the staff and volunteers have great relationships with the people who are coming in. There is no stigma when you're getting good and healthy foods.
Q: Or splurging occasionally on decadent cinnamon rolls. Tell us about that brunch box.
A: Each month, Fare For All advertises one "Hot Buy" special. For March, the box is full of breakfast meats and treats for $30 and can feed four to five people.
Q: Equity is also part of your mission. Might you say more about that?
A: We work with wholesalers throughout the state but we also partner with farmers who have historically been underrepresented in farm ownership — including those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well as women and New Americans. Another program of the Food Group, Big River Farms near Marine on St. Croix, offers mentorships and guidance to beginning farmers. It's an example of where some of the local foods come from that are available at Fare For All.
Q: What types of payments do you accept?
Q: Cash, credit, debit and EBT cards. Unfortunately, we cannot accept checks.
Q: How do you get the word out about Fare For All?
A: Many of our customers hear about the program from their family and friends, community partners, faith communities, social workers or our large network of food shelf partners. But the number one way we get the word out is through Facebook.
Q: What kind of COVID protocols are you following?
A: We are following CDC guidelines and are asking customers, volunteers, and staff to mask up indoors at sales — regardless of vaccination status.
Q: Can people donate food to Fare For All? If so, how might they do that safely and appropriately?
A: We do receive some food donations, but the best way to help is to spread the word! We know that the coming months are going to bring higher food prices, inflation, and higher gas prices at the pump. We want our communities to know that Fare For All will be with them, helping them stretch their dollars with good customer service. We're all about relationship-building. And if you want to support the Food Group financially, you can make a gift at thefoodgroupmn.org.