Valley Outreach Annual Report FY2015-2016
From the Heart
At our last Feed the Valley event, a former client named Paula shared the story
of her family and how they were supported during a challenging time.
Her sons, twin boys named Jameson and Isaac (pictured above), are her "world."
We're sharing her story with you, below, as just a glimpse of the impact of your support.
"I grew up in st. Paul in a single-parent family. My dad died when I was 2. My mom was a teacher and I had a pretty normal upbringing - nothing out of the ordinary. I never expected to be a single mom. I never expected to use programs like the ones Valley Outreach has, but that's where life has taken me.
I started coming to Valley Outreach when the boys were two. I was waitressing and in nursing school, while also trying to feed and clothe myself and the kids. The biggest expense was childcare, in addition to school, rent, and other bills. It's hard to make life livable.
When I came to Valley Outreach I was very uncomfortable about being judged or pitied and I totally dreaded walking in the first time. but the staff I met were incredibly kind and so easy to talk with. It's a very welcoming place.
I didn’t realize how shaky my food situation really was until
I went to the food shelf. It is beautiful – so many kinds of fruits and
vegetables and meat. I used to ration my food so I had enough for the boys – I
didn’t go hungry but I didn’t know what it was like to have actually have
enough fruit so you could eat it when you want.
Since coming to Valley Outreach, I have built up a pantry
with supplies like rice wine vinegar and spices and herbs – I can make all
sorts of things like curries and stir fries. Now I can take anything and make a
good, healthy meal. Coming to Valley Outreach opened the door to cooking for
me. Cooking is my hobby now.
And I loved Bonus Friday – it was like “Chopped” every week
for me! Actually, Bonus Friday totally
changed how Isaac and Jameson eat – they don’t care for fast food anymore and I
think they have a sophisticated palate! I’d say that about 70% of our fruits
and vegetables came from the food shelf. And when we could make it to Bonus
Friday, ALL our produce came from the food shelf. It not only changed the way I
eat, it changed the way the boys eat. Except Isaac doesn’t like collard greens.
my 2 year nursing degree last summer and just last month, started a part-time job
at Regions Hospital working in acute rehab. I haven’t used the food shelf in recent months. It was there
when I needed it and by not spending money on groceries, I had money for my
electric bill and glasses for the boys. Being able to get clothing and food
moved me through a very difficult time in my life.
Thanks for letting me share my story and how we went from one
apple for mom a day to avocados, berries, squash, broccoli and
a steady supply of what my kids need to grow. It changed my whole lifestyle. I hope you will support this incredible
organization – it made a difference in my life and it made a difference in the
lives of Jameson and Isaac."
Valley Outreach is a bridge between the crisis of the moment and the solution
of the future. We help our St. Croix Valley neighbors in need of
food, clothing, emergency financial assistance and other support while
respecting their individual dignity and offering them encouragement and hope.
Our Goals: We serve our St. Croix Valley neighbors
by providing food, clothing, emergency financial assistance, providing
education and support services, while respecting individual dignity and
offering encouragement and hope.
Geographic Area & Community Served
With headlines reading "Biggest Income Gains in 50
Years" and "Food Prices Declining," you'd think the need for
organizations like ours would diminish. And that couldn't be further from the
truth. We experienced increases in usage across all of our programs in the last
For five decades, American anti-poverty policies have
focused on helping the chronically poor. This overlooks the growing number of
working families who face extreme ups and downs in income and expenses.
Low-wage work can be uneven and unstable and layoffs are common. Cars can break
down or a child can become ill - income volatility is high for lower-income
households and financial security is harder to achieve. We see these scenarios
play out in the 600+ households we serve monthly. Bankrate.com released a 2016
survey that showed 63% of Americans had no emergency savings and more than 4 in
10 Americans experienced a major unexpected expense over the past twelve
months. The US Federal Reserve has strikingly similar reports, going back to
2014. So, where does Valley Outreach fit in?
Valley Outreach is the only organization of its kind in the
St. Croix Valley, offering a spectrum of wrap-around services from food,
clothing, financial assistance, resource support to intensive case management -
our newest program. Through our food shelf, we don't expect to solve the hunger
issues we face, but we do create food security for more people and we do create
stability for families when they have enough to eat. Our competitive advantage
(yes, non-profits have them!) is that we have a level of service, and a model
of service, that is unduplicated in our community. We can keep people who face
a sudden loss of income from spiraling into despair and we can level the bumps
in the road.
With an eye towards our food shelf programming, know that
Minnesota, overall, is making progress on reducing hunger - we do better than
most states, according to the USDA (Household Food Security in the United
States in 2015 report). Minnesota also ranks well in new data from the Food Research
and Action Center yet highlighted is the fact that households with children
have more food hardships than those without. At Valley Outreach, 38% of our
clients are children, so that data hits home for us. Most often, food is a
presenting problem - a starting point - people who can't afford it cannot
afford other things.
Please read on for more detailed information, by program,
and see for yourself how your dollars are translated into action. Thank you!
Valley Outreach has been feeding our neighbors
in need since 1983. The Valley Outreach Food Shelf offers a choice model where
clients shop for their specific needs, honoring individual, family and cultural
preferences while offering fresh produce and a variety of healthier food
options. The Food Shelf provides non-perishable items (canned and boxed foods)
in addition to fresh produce, deli items, milk, eggs, margarine, frozen meats
and other perishable products as available.
Bonus Fridays is an opportunity for clients to receive
additional perishable food items (such as fresh produce, deli items, and bread)
to help stretch food resources and provide ongoing access to fresh foods.
It is open to clients of Valley Outreach and others who find themselves in need
of emergency food assistance.
Each week, approximately 80 households
received an average of 18 pounds of food per person by the Bonus Friday fresh
Snack Pack is a program available to families with
elementary school age children who can sign up to receive weekend packs of
kid-friendly meal and snack items. This program helps to alleviate hunger over
the weekend, when free and reduced school meals are not available. The year featured more whole grains, fruit, and protein-packed lunch choices.
Approximately 266 elementary age students in 12 different schools received critical weekend snacks and meals as part of the
Snack Pack program. We distributed 8,587 snack packs!
Mobile Choice is a home-delivery program offered to clients
with limited mobility due to age, health and/or disability. Clients place
an order indicating their food preferences which is then packed and delivered
to their home by trained volunteers.
The Mobile Choice program serves an average of 35 households each month. Last year we had 316 deliveries, distributing the equivalent of 11,316 meals!
Produce Distribution (NEW) & Oak-Land Market In the summer of 2016, Valley Outreach launched a monthly produce giveaway, located at Oak-Land Junior High. With a
focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, this giveaway also increases our
visibility in the southern part of our core service area. This distribution was
launched at the same time we moved into the second year of a pilot – Oak-Land
Market – a secondary school food shelf program. With these two initiatives, we
better connect to families through their home school while offering support for
those who can’t as easily access our Stillwater-based programs.
Through our various food shelf programs, we
distributed approximately 646,187 meals last year. (We highlighted some favorite recipes made with ingredients from the food shelf on social media, check #fromtheshelves on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!!)
the last fiscal year, there were 9,481 visits to the Valley
Outreach Food Shelf programs, through which 808,372 pounds of food were
distributed to 1,468 unique households, reaching 3,825
unique individuals. That’s an 10% increase in individuals served from
Of those served:
of households used the program for the first time ever
increase in seniors served from the last year
- 142 homeless households comprised of 366 individuals served (42% increase from last year - This number continues to grow, as do our efforts to connect and support those in crisis.)
The Clothing Closet provides men’s,
women’s and children’s clothing, including socks and underwear. The selection of
clothing available for all ages gives clients an opportunity to ensure growing
children have clothes that fit, adults can dress confidently for the workplace,
all individuals are warm and comfortable in the winter months, and that all
have access to the basic clothing needs of socks and underwear.
We provide clothing to an average of 133 families each month.
During the last fiscal year, there were 1,600
visits to the Valley Outreach Clothing Closet and 51,699 items of clothing were
distributed to clients in need.
The Valley Outreach Emergency Fund offers
financial assistance to individuals and families in crisis. We support those
facing financial adversity by providing funds for rental and mortgage expenses,
heat and utility services, car repair that maintains transportation to work and
critical healthcare needs such as prescription medications.
In the past year, we distributed
approximately $42,207 in financial assistance to 153 households (432 individuals) through the Emergency Fund. Over 50% of the funds distributed went to
keeping families in their homes.
Assisting our clients as they navigate through
difficult, and often unexpected, life situations is a goal of Valley Outreach. When a client’s needs go beyond the core programs offered at Valley Outreach,
we work with them to bridge the gap by making connections to additional
resources and organizations. This can include where and how to obtain medical
aid, find affordable housing and link to job and
skill-building programs. We do this to move people towards a higher level of
In the last year, we served 1,096 unique
households through Resource Advising, representing 3,487 unique individuals who
have been positively impacted by this program.
Case Management Program (New!)
Last year, Valley Outreach took on a case management program from Ascend after a detailed review of the needs in our community and of our clients. Case management, paired with the other Valley Outreach services, offers clients fully integrated support. Our program is goal based. With support from our case manager, clients identify specific goals they would like to reach, review the barriers to reaching their goals, and create a plan to overcome them. Examples include employment support, mental health referrals, housing, transportation, and accessing other community supports. The end result is helping clients address the many barriers they face, getting them back on their feet and helping them stay there.
Volunteers are a vital part of Valley Outreach
and play a significant role in helping individuals and families through a
difficult time in their life. Every week, our dedicated team of volunteers
donates hours of their time as they assist in the operation of our
programs. Valley Outreach has many volunteer opportunities in our Food
Shelf, Clothing Closet, and administrative offices for both groups and
Last year, 1,289 unique volunteers contributed
28,197 hours to Valley Outreach, valued at $664,320!