Supporting our community members and neighbors needing access to food cannot be done without key partnerships and collaboration. It’s an important, critical mission that requires cross sector collaboration. At The Food Group, we’re proud to team up with a wide network of partners — farmers, wholesalers, advocates, donors, volunteers, anti-hunger agencies, and more — to ensure everyone has easy access to healthy and culturally connected foods.

One especially important partner in this network are our healthcare partners. The Food Group is proud to be a leader in addressing the importance of nutrition and the intersection between health and hunger. It’s been a core focus and value for more than 15 years, and our nutritious foods policy has guided our work since 2008. We know there is a connection between nutrition and chronic disease and the importance of ensuring everyone has the food they need to thrive. As part of our commitment to health, we collaborate with a number of healthcare organizations. Fairview Health Services and HealthPartners are two of those amazing partners.

Our relationship with HealthPartners came about more than a decade ago as part of their organization’s commitment to nutrition and physical activity. We partnered with them on SuperShelf, a collaboration that transformed food shelves into welcoming environments so communities had better access to appealing, healthy food — especially communities who faced barriers when it came to consistently feeding themselves and their families. 

“We knew the partner we needed to create a healthier food supply for hunger relief was The Food Group,” said Marna Canterbury, vice president of community health and partnerships for HealthPartners. “The Food Group has been our partner for decades and was really the leader in improving the quality, not just the quantity, of food in the supply chain. Their approach was to partner with SuperShelf to get better, healthier food, and better culturally connected foods, for our food shelves. And they made it happen.”

As part of our relationship with HealthPartners, patients who are positively screened as experiencing food insecurity or barriers to access are referred to the Minnesota Food HelpLine, a program of The Food Group. This is part of our SNAP Rx efforts to strengthen the connection between healthcare and anti-hunger organizations. That patient is then connected to the food resource that’s right for them.

“When we refer patients and members to The Food Group], we’re giving them broader connections than only a local food shelf,” Canterbury told us. “They’re going to get high-quality resources and connected to other food programs. They’re going to get connected to SNAP and hear about all of the community supports available for their family, instead of just meeting an emergency food need. This matters to improve the health and well-being of our patients and members.”

Fairview Health Services has a menu of patient and community facing programs designed for individuals dealing with food insecurity and other diet-related medical conditions. When a food need is recognized, their provider team has an array of options to offer the individual, two of which The Food Group helps to provide. Their food voucher program MarketRx gives participants a monthly stipend to spend at our Fare For All and Twin Cities Mobile Market programs, and their fresh food prescription program “prescribes” patients with weekly food boxes filled with produce and pantry staples, which The Food Group helps to source and supply. One unique aspect of the Market Rx program is it gives patients autonomy and power over their choices. The Food Group and Fairview share the belief that each person is the best person to make decisions about their family’s diet and health.  

“We want to acutely impact someone’s food insecurity … and do it in a way that recognizes the organizations that already do this,” said Terese Hill, supervisor of community advancement food system strategy at M Health Fairview. The organization operates under a “food as medicine” strategy and looks at healthy food access as just one component of the kind of health care they offer their patients. “It’s not just about distributing calories to individuals that aren’t getting enough. There are ways we can do it to be intentional about supporting a healthy, vibrant, local food system so people can transition out of food insecurity and improve their health and wellbeing.”

Our partnership with Fairview is also helpful for their providers and team members, who have developed relationships with our staff over the years that go beyond just a professional transaction. 

“We’ve spent time co-designing and co-implementing initiatives, and communicating back and forth about what the experience is like for the patient participating,” Hill said. “Being able to build those relationships with individuals is helpful to making sure the program is a good experience for somebody participating.” She added that having ongoing, rolling enrollment programs year-round that Fairview providers and care teams can have in their back pocket to offer patients and members has been vital.

One of our newest Twin Cities Mobile Market locations is right at a Fairview clinic in Saint Paul, bringing the food even closer to families being referred through the partnership and the broader community. The team at Fairview identified this location as one that had the potential to have a high impact on patients who are experiencing food insecurity. That’s just one of many reasons The Food Group was excited to bring our Twin Cities Mobile Market to the  Fairview clinic in Saint Paul. 

A key value that unifies The Food Group with our various healthcare partners is treating people experiencing food insecurity with care and with dignity … and supporting them wherever they are in their lives and however they need help.

“There’s a lot of stigma and shame around food insecurity for our patients and our members,” Canterbury said. “We know when we refer them to The Food Group they’re going to get a compassionate and well-informed person helping guide them through that. We know someone is going to help them navigate this. And that’s been far superior to only giving them a resource list. They have a real person on the other end. That gives our care providers confidence that this person is going to get what they need.”

Compassion is something that’s also important to Hill and the team at M Health Fairview.

“I want the end-user experience for our patients to be the best we possibly can. I want them to open up their boxes and it’s beautiful, fresh, and interesting. How can we make it a super dignified, delicious, beautiful option? Make sure the experience for someone going to the mobile market to access their credit doesn’t feel like a program. They just get to shop on the bus. It doesn’t feel any different.” 

We’re grateful for the opportunity to team up with healthcare partners who share our same goal: to make healthy, culturally connected foods easier to access for everyone. Special thanks to organizations like HealthPartners and Fairview Health Services for collaborating with us to bring that goal closer to reality, one patient at a time.

We Value Nutritious Food
Working with our community partners, The Food Group buys, gleans, grows, and processes fresh produce.

Food Bank
or Food Shelf?
The Food Group is a food bank that supplies other hunger relief agencies with fresh produce, frozen meat, grocery staples, and other household necessities. Food shelves distribute free food to individuals and families in their local communities.

The Food Group believes in food equity. They believe in culturally specific foods. They believe in meeting people where they are at. And most of all, they believe in dignity.

The Food Group volunteer and donor

Did You Know?
Over 20% of Black households and 19% of Latinx households report food insecurity, compared to 10% of white households.

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The Food Group

We’re a nonprofit working at the intersection of equity and access to fresh, sustainable foods. From farming to distribution, we provide fresh food across MN and WI.

The Food Group is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. EIN 41-1246504 Contributions are tax-deductible to the full amount provided by the law.

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