How we got our start
In 1981, before “food insecurity” was even a phrase, a group of concerned people recognized a crisis in our community and organized to provide temporary emergency food assistance. Our first food “shelf” was in a church basement, where boxes of donated canned goods were assembled and distributed.
The need for our services has never gone away. As ECHO has grown, we have developed and expanded our programs to meet the needs of our community.
Clients can make use of our regular program once per month to select a full grocery order including canned and dry goods, meat, dairy, bread, fresh produce, and specialty items. This amounts to over a week’s worth of groceries.
In 2019, we had almost 18,000 visits in our regular food program.
In our ECHO Extras program, clients can come in every week to choose from items that we have in abundance. In the past the items offered were mostly fresh produce, bread, and other perishable items. Recently, we have been able to expand the selection to include canned and frozen meat, dairy, and a small selection of dry goods.
This program continues to grow. Visits have increased from 1,468 in 2017 to 4,339 in 2019. Last year the program diverted 257,296 pounds of quality perishable food from landfills to people’s tables.
For some, just getting to the food shelf is a struggle. Some lack transportation, others are restricted by physical limitations.
Every month volunteers bring food to about 45 local families who are unable to get to our food shelf.
Summer Feeding Program
For families who depend on the school lunch program, the added expense of feeding children in the summer months can increase their burden. Not all families can access the onsite feeding programs. For them, our Summer Feeding Program helps fill the meal gap. Families can come to ECHO once per week to pick up extra groceries for school-age children and teens.
In the summer of 2019, we provided the supplies for almost 75,000 breakfasts and lunches.
Folate and Formula
Along with the regular visit, pregnant women receive an additional food package. We provide monthly formula vouchers to children under one year old.
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time to get together a share a meal with loved ones. For those who struggle every month to feed their families a full Thanksgiving meal may seem unattainable. The ECHO community rallies each year to provide a ham or turkey and all the trimmings to families in Blue Earth County and North Mankato.
Last year our program helped 1,189 families enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal in their homes.
This program is for people who lack a place to store or prepare food. Multivisit clients can make more frequent visits with a focus on ready-to-eat foods.