MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota nonprofit that has spent the 12 years fighting childhood hunger by delivering more than 10 million weekend meals directly into backpacks, could soon have 2 million new reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Five anonymous family foundations have come together to provide a $1,000,000 dollar-for-dollar fundraising match to ensure that Every Meal can continue to grow its weekend meal program, at a time when the non-profit has struggled to keep up with inflation and an explosion in demand.
"I think the word that comes to mind for me is hope," said Lindsey Torkilsen, Director of Programs for Every Meal.
The non-profit is 100% community funded, and relies on a network of volunteers to both pack meals at its Roseville warehouse and to fill backpacks every Friday at partnering schools.
After starting with just a small number of schools in 2010, it steadily built that network to include 430 schools across the region, and reached an average of 12,000 Minnesota students every week during the 2022-2023 school year.
"I look at our coverage map and I think, 'Wow,'" Torkilsen said. "But I'm also like, dang, that's a lot of hungry kids and this is right in our backyard. I don't think people realize that."
KARE 11 viewers began to realize Every Meal's impact in November.
Within days of airing a story describing how much the need for meals had grown, viewers fundraised more than $35,000 to ensure Every Meal could keep its commitment to schools.
But the story also led to more calls for help from Minnesota schools.
Torkilson: "Our waiting list has grown almost every day."
Erdahl: "Back in December I was told there was a waitlist of 71 schools. Where does that stand now?"
Torkilsen: "We're at over 125, and the list continues to grow. There's thousands and thousands of kids just waiting for that weekend bag from Every Meal."
Erdahl: "I would imagine it's hard to tell a school no."
Torkilsen: "It's probably one of the least favorite parts of my job. They will say I have this need, can you help? That's the core of our story but our response right now is, 'I would love to but... not right now. Let's talk about when."
The $1 million dollar match breathes new life into those conversations.
"We hope to reach the $1,000,000 match in the next one to three months," said founder Rob Williams. "It's not just your $100, it becomes $200, and the impact that that makes on the kids is just huge."
According to Every Meal, roughly $250,000 is still needed to pay off the food that is being used to finish out the school year. After hitting that milestone, it can begin to look at reinstating some summer food programs and making plans for the next school year.
"There's so much gratitude," Torkilsen said. "Every meal wouldn't be able to feed all the kids that we are without the support of the community."
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