March Food Drive has impact on those giving and receiving


It’s estimated that 1 in 10 families in Minnesota—that’s over 500,000 Minnesotans–are currently experiencing food insecurity, meaning they can’t always afford the food they need for their families.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help Neighborhood House fight hunger in Minnesota during our annual March Food Drive. This year’s goal is to raise 194,000 dollars/pounds ($144,000 and 50,000 pounds) to help households who are struggling to provide fresh, healthy foods to their families.

While the impact of the March Food Drive is great on those who receive, the impact is also meaningful for those who give.

Volunteer Sue Grupe was first introduced to Neighborhood House through a 25 year membership at Mount Zion Temple. The temple has more than a 100 year history of helping Jewish immigrants settle into St. Paul; a legacy that has strongly impacted her values and faith. As the years passed, the temple enlarged their mission to include not just Jewish families, but immigrants from all parts of the world. Eventually, this became the work of the agency now known as Neighborhood House, where Sue has become a regular volunteer.

Two years ago, a few months after retiring, Sue said she decided to spend some of her time doing volunteer work at Neighborhood House. While she was initially interested in working with adult education students, fate had other ideas—the only volunteer opportunities available in the Food Market. Although she’d never been to a food shelf before, she agreed to work in the Food Market on the last—and, busiest—week of the March Food Drive. A decision that has changed the way she’s deepened her connection to hunger issues in the community.

On her first day, she “was so impressed by all of the food that had been donated and the volunteers were running around like crazy sorting food and stocking shelves—it was so inspiring!” she said. So inspired that she now volunteers two days a week at the Food Market and also helps with the indoor Fresh Produce distributions at Metro State during the winter months.

And, the tradition still continues at Mount Zion Temple. During Rosh Hashanah, Kowalski’s bags are passed out as part of the March Food Drive. Members are encouraged to fill the bag with the groceries they would have prepared to eat on Yom Kippur (traditionally a day of fasting). Or, they can contribute money, and usually write checks with dollar amounts in multiples of 18 (the spiritual number meaning “to life” in Hebrew), which is called “giving chai.”

Now Sue oversees the March Food Drive on behalf of the Women of Mount Zion Temple, where they set up tables in the lobby to pass out the shopping bags and accept online donations. This year, she’s expanded the reach of the campaign by handing out the shopping bags in the Temple’s religious school classes to encourage middle and high school students to participate.

“When you stop working, you miss the connection with other people, so I’m so glad I just stumbled upon helping in the fight for hunger; it’s a great cause to support and to tell others about,” she said. “I’ve been met with open arms by the great people at Neighborhood House. The people there are so welcoming and have such huge and giving hearts and being there has truly enriched my life!”

The March Food Drive will run from Monday, Feb. 25- Sunday, April 7. If you’d like to find out how to help Neighborhood House fight hunger, visit