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Fare for All means food for all
Sophia Lenarz-Coy has worked only two years as the Outreach Coordinator for the Fare for All program yet she says that she has seen the program grow by 200%.
"There is an awakening. People are more budget conscious," she said.
The Fare for All program, once known as Fare Share is now part of a larger organization known as the Emergency Food Network (EFN). Fare for All is a cooperative food-purchasing program that provides a variety of top quality food packages for sale at different locations each month. Currently there are 95 distribution sites within Minnesota.
By being part of the EFN, Fare for All can share resources such as trucks and warehouse space. And by using full time buyers who look for wholesale prices they are able to offer consumers 30-50% discount off of grocery store prices.
Express Locations, Dates, and Times for 2010
The program has two versions. The basic model, which has been around 30 years, is a pre-pay, pre-order model. Volunteers help run the sites located in both the metro and greater Minnesota area. A variation of the basic program, Fare for All Express, started three-and-one-half years ago in the metro area. Organizers found that pre-ordering and pre-paying was difficult for many people who were on a limited income so they developed 20 locations in the metro area, which do not require pre-ordering or pre-paying. Instead, you just show up at the site on the date of delivery and pay for the packages you want.
Fare for All offers a variety of different food packages for sale. The regular package costs about $17 and gives you a selection of produce and meat, while the family package is priced at $20 and provides only non-perishable staple items such as vegetable oil, flour, sugar, canned fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, and boxed dinners. Customers can come in and purchase as many packages as they like.
The holiday package offered during holiday months is a very popular option for many people because it includes everything for a holiday meal at a very low cost. During months with no holidays, Fare for All offers mega meat packages with 8-10 items for approximately $22.
Another benefit about the express sites is you get to see what they offer before you buy them.
According to Lenarz-Coy, they are very good at predicting usage, so there is plenty of food for all. "It's very, very rare that we run out ," she said.
In the past, Fare for All requested people to volunteer two hours a month in the community but they no longer require this. They do however encourage volunteering and giving back to the community.
"We couldn't exist if it wasn't for the thousands of volunteer hours that people help on the Fare for All program, " Lorenz-Coy said.
Last year EFN recorded 143,000 hours of volunteer time coming from 53,000 individuals.
Although about 8-10 states have similar programs, Coy-Lorenz said that Fare for All is the most advanced, especially since incorporating the Fare for all Express.
"What I like about Fare for All is that they don't sacrifice nutritional quality," she said adding that the food is high quality and they offer the same name brand food items found at Cub and Rainbow stores.
"Fare for all has a wide mix of people who use the program. From those who are on food support to parents who have a couple of kids in college and need that additional savings to help make ends meet.
"We want to be there for everybody, " she said.
The Fare for All program is not a food shelf.
"We do not ask for income qualifications," she said. "Because we buy in bulk we actually need the numbers. The more people we have the better the wholesale prices."
"It's a great community program and you can bring people with you," she said, adding that the program doesn't have the stigma associated with a food shelf. Participating in Fare for All is not an admission that you can't provide for your family.
"It's a great way for your dollar to go farther," she said.
One person who shops Fare for All said in a survey, "You were here to help when we didn't know where to go. Now that we are back on our feet, we want to support the coop for others."
Another person said they liked the "prices, convenience and quickness of service, (especially since I have to bring my two kids who are under 2"
Volunteer Gary Garrison says that the number one reason why he volunteers for Fare for All is the people, but he also likes to try and make a difference in this world.
He said that with so many complex problems today , "I don't know how to help but as far as hunger is concerned, I can apply my energies to make it a little better.
Fare for All is one of those best-kept secrets and even when Garrison tells his friends about the program, they are still reluctant to use it.
"The most difficult thing to get across to people is the fact that it is it is open to everyone. You're not taking anything away from anyone. The more that come, the more they can buy. "
"There are customers who need to go but there is that whole guilt thing for people and it shouldn't be," he said.
Lenarz-Coy said that it has been very difficult to get the word out to the middle class group that is struggling right now. Kare 11 ran a story about Fare for All a few months ago and that has helped.
"It's challenging to publicize the program when you don't have a budget for it. Word of mouth is really the best way. People trust more when someone is telling them about it but they are always looking for more people to tell others we're out there."
If you would like to find out more about the Fare for All program, its distribution sites or how to volunteer go to their website at http://www.fareforall.org
©2010 Robin Sauerwein