Nutritious and Culturally Specific in a Time of Need

The Food Group
Volunteers from City Church pack 1,300 lbs of harina de maiz (yellow corn flour), for partners at Community Emergency Service. Harina de maiz is a staple for making many culturally connected foods like tamales, pupusas,
arepas, and tortillas. (Eric Wilson)

Food is a source of energy we need in order to get through our day. People have been more in need of food since the pandemic started compared to the past few years.   

“Food connects us all. It can help bring people together as a community,” said Emily Eddy White, the development and marketing director for The Food Group.  

“There’s a really huge need for food, and for quality of food, and community support is really making that happen,” she said. “So people are giving their time and support. And people being aware, too, and wanting to do something about it.”  

The Food Group is a nonprofit focused on providing nutritious and culturally specific foods for those experiencing food insecurity. One way this food is gathered is by being rescued and harvested from farmers markets and farms. The Food Group also partners with food shelves and meal programs to provide healthy and nutritious items to people in need.  

“And it’s healthy food, too. It’s not just any food, it’s the foods that people are familiar with, it’s the foods that they need and that’s going to help their bodies grow as well, because there’s a huge intersection between health and hunger,” White said.  

The core values of The Food Group are nutrition and equity, which is why it focuses on providing culturally specific foods that are familiar and fit different cultural dietary needs. Imagine a traditional, ethnic meal your family makes: how it smells and tastes, what it looks like, how it made you feel and why you enjoyed it. Without specific ingredients, that meal would not have been made. There is a wide variety of foods that cross cultural lines and are easily accessible for people to purchase.  

“I think we still have a consistent response, but we’re in need of volunteers right now, so that’s definitely one of the things that we’re trying to focus on,” White said. 

Because of the pandemic, it is especially hard to safely provide food in a large community area. The Food Group has taken this situation seriously by working hard to continue distributing food to people in need. They’ve had volunteers come in groups of 10, instead of the usual 50, which brings the efficiency level down as the need for food goes up. Whether the food is delivered or distributed, The Food Group needs volunteers to give them a helping hand.  

“We definitely have a whole plan for how you communicate to your supporters to keep them engaged, and to let them know about the impact that they’re having as supporters and in the community, and (to tell them about) the work that’s happening,” White said.  

Getting food to people is just as important as putting the food in safe packages. The Food Group uses its website, newsletters, news spots, events, social media, and its blog to communicate what it is and what it does to help those facing food inequality–like its Fare For All and Twin Cities Mobile Market programs, which make nutritious foods more affordable and accessible through food distribution in the community. 

“It’s the foundation for people to be able to thrive and focus on other areas of life,” White said. “I think a lot about how is it that we have community members that don’t have the food that they need and how do we make sure that everyone has that.”  

This pandemic presents many challenges, but The Food Group is committed to providing food through support in donations and volunteering so everyone gets the food they need. Check out volunteer opportunities at