SOCIAL DISTANCING LEADS TO RVSP’S NEW 7-DAY MEAL KIT PROJECT

Thanks to recent Northwest Minnesota Foundation and NW Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NWRSDP) grants, isolated seniors and individuals affected by COVID job loss have one less thing to worry about. Using a newly-developed University of MN Extension, “14 Day Meal Kit” template, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of the Red River Valley (RSVP of the RRV) has secured funds to implement and provide Weekly Meal Kits for those neediest during and after the COVID-19-induced Stay at Home and social distancing directives.  

RSVP is partnering with small-town grocers and RSVP volunteers (without compromised health issues) throughout the seven-county NW MN region to package and deliver non-perishable meal kit boxes at no cost to recipients.  Food items chosen will be according to the 14-day meal kit guide produced by a UMN Extension team and revised for a 7-day version. Meal kits, projected to feed one person for a week, will be assembled by participating local grocery stores and delivered to those in need by RSVP volunteers, keeping social distancing and the health and safety of clients and volunteers, in mind. 

The emergency food, suggested by a UMN Extension health and nutrition team, is ‘shelf-stable, easy to prepare, and calorie sufficient for vulnerable populations.’ The products are typically easy to find in any rural grocery store, thereby supporting local businesses.  The kits include items for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. “These meal kits will allow communities to help each other while also supporting local businesses that serve as a critical resource during times of crisis.” 

An RSVP volunteer taskforce (COVID screened) has been established with representatives of each county, who will be the eyes, ears, and hands throughout the region. Volunteers will pick up meal kits that have been packaged by partnering grocery stores, then provide non-contact delivery to recipients, thereby minimizing contact among members of the public.   Non-contact delivery means that deliveries will be left outside the door of a client’s home.  Recipients will be screened before delivery to assure that a solution will be found if someone is unable to get their groceries from outside.

Aiming to replicate the meal kit project within each of the 7 Counties served by RSVP of the RRV, Program Director, Tammy Frohlich, wrote the grant proposal to supply ten meal kits within each.  Rural living can be isolating under normal circumstances; adding COVID-19 concerns and sheltering in place intensifies fear and disconnection. “My hope is to alleviate financial burden and fear of COVID-19 exposure while creating connections that meet fundamental needs among those most vulnerable,” Frohlich states.

The FREE Meal kits are available to seniors age 60 and older or to individuals of any age who have experienced job loss due to the current pandemic in the following Counties: Polk, Norman, Kittson, Roseau, Red Lake, Pennington, and Marshall.  Ten meal kits are available within each county and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Community or family members, churches, nonprofit organizations, social service providers, or individuals themselves may contact RSVP directly to request a meal kit.  Please call or email Tammy Frohlich, RSVP Director, (tsykes@umn.edu; 218-281-8289) or Jennifer Erdmann, RSVP Coordinator (jkerdman@umn.edu; 218-289-3832) for more information or to request a 7 Day Meal Kit for yourself or someone you know.