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Free with Dignity: Food Club Humanizes Aid

A little over four years ago, pastor Kurt Vickman announced to his church that he would be leaving in order to better dedicate himself to the innovative, Minneapolis Market, a “no-cost food club” for people in need.

Leading up to his retirement, Vickman rallied the church around this new food shelf, filling empty space in the church with shelves and cans of food, encouraging donations for the Minneapolis Market vision.

Unlike typical food shelves, where families walk in and are handed a box of mystery items, the Minneapolis Market offers a grocery store setting for anyone in need to come in and “shop around” just as if they were buying their own groceries. Members are offered a reusable bag and coffee upon arrival as well as someone to help carry the groceries home when they leave.

The market works as a food club like Sam’s Club or Costco, where individuals become members and are given a membership card. All members are then assigned a sponsor who is responsible for putting $10 on the cards each month, which covers the cost of a month’s worth of groceries per person thanks to a charity partnership with Secondhand Harvest and the generosity of personal donors.

The experience of being able to shop “adds respect to the process of a food shelf,” Minneapolis Market co-founder Dustin Heigel said in an interview with the local news. This was the vision of Pastor Vickman in 2010, when he came across a small closet-sized food shelf and realized how dehumanizing and humiliating the experience can be.

Focusing on aid that allows people choice and gives them opportunity while providing what they need is key for Minneapolis Market. Vickman believes that if we only pay attention to certain aspects of human need, such as food, water and shelter, we neglect to address mental, emotional, and spiritual needs such as respect, acknowledgment, and hope.

On a larger scale, there are organizations such as Heifer International, Beads for Africa and Kiva International also based on the principle of providing humanizing aid that not only provides people what they need but makes them feel more and more human.

In Steve McQueen’s acceptance speech for “12 Years A Slave” at the 2014 Academy awards, he said, “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live.” Aid provides people with what they need to survive and flourishing organizations such as the Minneapolis Market and others are focusing on evolving aid to mean so much more.

– Heather Klosterman

Sources: Minneapolis Market, Kare 11
Photo: Star Tribune