Striking out childhood hunger, one game at a time

Childhood hunger is a real issue in Minnesota and across the United States.

According to Hunger Solutions, Minnesotans visited food shelves 3,402,077 times in 2017 — marking the seventh consecutive year with more than 3 million visits to Minnesota food shelves. More than 36% of those visits were made by kids.

At The Food Group, a Minnesota-based healthy food access and hunger relief organization, we are working to reverse this trend by creating innovative solutions and partnerships to fight hunger and nourish our community.

According to the Minneapolis Public Schools 2017 Fall Meal/Academic Benefit Eligibility Report, 59.5% of students utilized the federal free or reduced lunch program in 2017. The Minneapolis Millers, a youth baseball team made up of Minneapolis Public School students, is partnering with The Food Group to help their friends and classmates struggling with hunger — one strike at a time.

youth baseball team logo The Minneapolis Millers are a youth baseball team. (Photo: Minneapolis Youth Baseball Association)

Giving Back

This year, the Minneapolis Millers 12AAA team will represent Minneapolis at a national baseball tournament in Cooperstown, New York. The total costs for sending the team and coaches is over $25,000, and the high cost serves as a huge barrier to participation. As a solution, the Millers embarked on a fundraising mission to help offset the costs for players and families.

Their fundraising journey quickly evolved: they realized that if they were going to ask for support from the community to help them reach their goal, they also wanted to give back to the community and help raise awareness of important issues facing youth across Minneapolis and the nation. Watch their fundraising journey in this clip from KSTP News.

Partnering to fight childhood hunger

When school is not in session, free and reduced school meals are not available for the students that count on them. The number of summer meal programs in Minneapolis is growing, however there is still a tremendous need.

The Minneapolis Millers created the Millers Home Plates initiative to help local Minneapolis kids struggling with hunger. They also hope to educate their players and others throughout youth baseball on the importance of fighting hunger in their communities, and to recruit more Minneapolis youth who may not otherwise have access to the game of baseball.

Through Millers Home Plates, the Minneapolis Millers are working to:

  • Sort and pack healthy food donations at The Food Group’s warehouse.
  • Help grow and harvest fresh sustainably grown produce at The Food Group Farm.
  • Collect and rescue fresh produce from the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, which is then donated to local families fighting hunger.
  • Collect non-perishable foods through an all-season Strike Out Hunger Food & Fund Drive.
  • Raise awareness and funds to help support The Food Group in building local urban gardens throughout Minneapolis.

Through their volunteer work and fundraising initiatives, the Millers want to help provide over 25,000 meals for local kids fighting hunger. They realize that while summer is a great time for baseball, it’s one of the hardest times of the year for their classmates struggling with food insecurity.

On June 9th, they launched their first Strike Out Summer Hunger Food & Fund Drive — with incredible response.

youth baseball loads up truck Minneapolis Millers 12AAA team loading up their food donations at the Strike Out Summer Hunger Food & Fund Drive. (Photo: Chris Lawrence)

Minneapolis Millers Strike Out Summer Hunger

The Minneapolis Millers 12AAA team organized their first Strike Out Summer Hunger Food & Fund Drive at their double-header tournament at Neiman Field on June 9th, 2018. They encouraged teammates and other teams in the league to donate healthy, kid-friendly foods.

In a few short hours, the Millers collected 475 pounds of healthy foods and raised $670, which will help provide 1,736 meals for their neighbors and classmates fighting hunger this summer. These foods included whole grain crackers, nut butters, fruit cups in juice, granola bars, low-sugar cereals, brown rice pouches, and pop-top soups.

Chris Lawrence, parent of two MYBA athletes and volunteer for the Millers 12AAA team, said shopping for this food was a no-brainer: he simply chose nutritious foods that he would want to feed his own children.

- story by Amber Mayer, Development & Marketing Associate for The Food Group

This story originally appeared on The Food Group's blog.

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For more than 40 years The Food Group has worked to provide good foods to those who need it most in our community. We focus on local food access, equity, and nutrition issues related to food and hunger in more than 32 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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