To the editor:

Since 1992, Loaves and Fishes has offered free meals to anyone in need at Creekside Community Center, contributing to a healthier, stronger community.

Last year, we served 26,244 home-cooked meals at that public dining location. In the first four months of 2020, we have provided 7,493 healthy meals to Bloomington families and individuals. Meals are available five days a week, year-round. In addition, our advocacy program offers social service resources that address other basic needs, such as housing and health care. This site also participates in the Summer Food Service Program, providing an option for healthy meal service to students.

Our operations in Bloomington have adapted to pandemic prohibitions. Rather than on-site cooking and seated meal service, food is pre-prepped offsite and then reheated and brought to people in takeaway containers in Creekside’s parking lot. Each person receives whatever number of meals is needed for their household.

These healthy meals are giving comfort to the same population that relied on us prior to the pandemic, yet made even more vulnerable because of it, while also expanding our safety net to include those who are newly vulnerable, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic because of entrenched inequalities and experiencing sudden economic fallout associated with the pandemic.

According to Data USA, a government data resource, 7.26% of the population in Bloomington was living below the poverty line last year. Minnesota Compass, a state data resource, reports that 18.8% of Bloomington residents are age 65 and older. Nationally, too many people reaching retirement age haven’t saved enough and find themselves downwardly mobile, going from being near poor to poor. These statistics will only worsen as the pandemic’s effects continue their damage.

Should the Creekside Community Center be closed and no longer a viable option for Loaves and Fishes, it is my hope to find a new Bloomington home for our meal service. My nimble team will adapt as needed. If you are a pastor of a local church willing to host our program, or you can offer another workable solution, please reach out: 612-392-5606 or cmaes@loavesandfishesmn.org.

Cathy Maes

St. Paul

Maes is the executive director of Loaves and Fishes.

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