Co-op Helps Fight Childhood Hunger

November 21, 2023
Mandy Hunecke, communications director for Crystal Valley Cooperative, describes how a CHS Seeds for Stewardship grant is helping the co-op provide food and books to students.

Cooperatives are a vital part of their communities. For Crystal Valley Cooperative, based in Mankato, Minn., that means helping address food insecurity and other needs.

“We want to make sure we’re helping to fill in gaps of the areas where we operate,” says Mandy Hunecke, communications director with Crystal Valley Cooperative. “Food insecurity can be just as big of an issue in rural areas as it is in urban areas.”

Feeding Those in Need

Food insecurity during the winter and holidays can be intensified for children. Utility bills often increase and holiday expenses squeeze budgets. Some children don’t receive the meals they need, especially when schools close.

“Budgets can get really tight for families this time of year,” Hunecke says. “A lot of times, food is the first thing that gets cut in family budgets because how much gets spent on groceries is something they can control.”

That’s where Feeding Our Communities Partners (FOCP), a program dedicated to solving youth hunger in the Mankato area, helps fill the need. The program provides meals to food-insecure children by placing food in the backpacks of elementary school students or supplying food for campus cupboards in middle and high schools. During long winter breaks, FOCP boxes up food and recruits community volunteers to deliver food directly to the doorsteps of families in need.

Supporting Youth Literacy

Along with delivering food to students’ homes over holiday breaks, Crystal Valley Cooperative helps promote literacy through the Read and Feed program. Through this program, children receive age-appropriate books with delivered meals.

“If you’re hungry, it’s hard to concentrate. Children who deal with food insecurity often struggle when it comes to their studies and having good behavior in school,” Hunecke explains. “Helping with not only providing food, but also helping them with literacy is something our co-op is passionate about.”

CHS Seeds for Stewardship Grants

Feeding students through FOCP is made possible in part by the CHS Seed for Stewardship matching grants program. Each year, a CHS-affiliated cooperative can apply for a matching grant of up to $10,000.

“We’ve donated a couple of thousand dollars every year to different programs like our winter break food delivery program and the Read and Feed program,” Hunecke says. “We wouldn’t be able to support these programs at the level we currently are without the matching funds from the CHS stewardship program. We’re very thankful to be able to stretch those dollars.”

Learn more about CHS Seeds for Stewardship.

A group of people in a warehouse, organizing boxes of food, preparing them for distribution to fight childhood hunger.