MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — As health care workers take care of COVID-19 patients, small businesses are helping take care of those on the front lines.
15 local snack companies have formed the "MN Hero Snack Pack" campaign.
It was inspired by Dr. Erica Kuhlmann at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul where health care workers are exclusively treating COVID-19 patients.
"She had reached out to a bunch of us snack companies looking for quality snacks that her staff could just grab and go," explained Robyn Frank, owner of Thumbs Cookies in Minneapolis. "I couldn't believe she had taken the time to Google all these companies and reach out to all these companies individually given her state of stress and workload."
Frank and other local snack companies donated more than $5,000 worth of goods to Bethesda Hospital. It then grew into something much larger.
"We realized there are going to be so many other health care workers who are in need," said Tasya Kelen, owner of Isadore Nut Company in Minneapolis.
So 15 local makers joined forces and started the MN Hero Snack Pack campaign. Brands participating include the following: Hacienda San José; Coco, Bee & Nut; ColorMeJill CARE-amels; Flackers; Gustola Granola; Isadore Nut Co.; Kakookies; Maddy & Maize; Mademoiselle Miel; Northstar Kombucha; North Mallow; Ommie Snacks; Thumbs Cookies; You Betcha Kimchi; and ZoZo's Sweet Treats.
Kelen said Dr. Kuhlmann told her how much the snacks had meant to her staff.
"It dropped their anxiety about what they were doing and where they were. To be able to walk into the break room and grab a pack of cookies or grab a whole thing of nuts just made them feel so supported. So I like to think of it as... we all really need a hug right now and this is like a virtual hug that we can give," Kelen said.
A $25 donation feeds 8-10 hospital workers while also helping support Minnesota-based small businesses.
"A lot of us small food producers... our sales channels have dried up," Frank said. "That money is going back to recoup our costs of what we are donating. So right now everyone is just putting out the goods they have hoping that the donations will come in to cover those costs."
Angela Gustafson, owner of Gustola Granola in Minneapolis, said, "I think anxiety and stress levels are so high. I think for all of us. And there are some who have it so much tougher than we do. As small food brands... we're really uniquely positioned to bring a little joy to people, provide some nourishment, reduce that stress level and make people smile. And that's really what it's all about."
You can also follow along on their Facebook page.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.