St. Paul unions’ free food giveaways pass million-pound milestone

Volunteers load cars with 30-pound packages of fresh food in St. Paul Park, where the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation’s food giveaways surpassed the million-pound milestone Saturday.

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation and its nonprofit Labor Studies and Resource Center (LSRC) have taken a leading role in connecting Minnesotans with fresh food available through a new USDA program this winter. And on March 20 in St. Paul Park, their efforts hit a major milestone: 1 million pounds of food distributed into local communities.

“With demand for emergency food assistance at an all-time high during the pandemic, it’s been amazing to see local unions step up this winter to connect more Minnesota families with free, fresh food available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program,” Regional Labor Federation President Kera Peterson said.

The giveaway at the American Legion in St. Paul Park, just blocks away from the Marathon refinery where nearly 200 Teamsters have been locked out for two months, was the 29th coordinated by the Regional Labor Federation since October.

Eleven more events are on the calendar for March, with more coming in April. Find a list of coming events at stpaulunions.org or the federation’s Facebook page.

At each event, the nonprofit LSRC accesses a USDA truckload of food and partners with local unions, labor councils and community organizations to stage contactless distribution events. Each event requires dozens of volunteers to unload and distribute about 1,300 packages of fresh food, each weighing about 30 pounds.

“Logistically, we need forklifts, we need palette jacks, and we need people who can operate them – that’s what unions and our partner organization are providing,” said Erica Dalager Reed, an AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison with the LSRC. “They’re also providing the empathy and connection that all of us so sorely need.”

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