How to stretch your grocery budget, and other MN resources as inflation and gas prices keep rising – St. Paul Pioneer Press


OUR PICKS:
For a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon, a traveling grocery program popped up at a church in Eagan to sell healthy food at discounted prices.
The deals included local, free-range brown eggs for $2 a dozen; carving hams weighing in at five pounds (or more) for $8; fresh produce packs for $10, meat packs for $10 to $25; and a hearty brunch box for $30 that included thick-cut bacon, pork sausage, turkey breakfast links, diced green peppers and a pound of cheddar cheese.
What’s the deal with these deals?
The specials are courtesy of Fare for All, a program of a local nonprofit called The Food Group, and demand for its provisions are increasing.
“We definitely have been seeing more folks coming to Fare For All, specifically recently,” says Emily Eddy White, director of advancement and culture at The Food Group. “Increased food costs, inflation in general, winter utility bills and now rising cost of gas all contribute to an urgent need for affordable foods.”
There are no income guidelines or preregistration required to purchase groceries at the monthly distributions, which happen across the Twin Cities and across Greater Minnesota; simply log onto Fareforall.thefoodgroupmn.org to search for a distribution near you. The nonprofit also details the current packs at Facebook.com/fareforall.
Here are some additional local resources and programs:
Start here: Did you know that you can dial 2-1-1 for help finding resources? Greater Twin Cities United Way operates the 211 resource helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week with caring call specialists who direct people to information and resources they need, including rental assistance, utility bills, food programs, child care, employment resources and more. The helpline addresses about 52 urgent needs every hour, a spokesperson says.
People can access 211 via phone (just dial 211), website, chat or text. Get more information at gtcuw.org/our-work/211-resource-helpline/.
More grocery help: In addition to Fare for All, The Food Group also has a “grocery store on a bus” that makes stops around St. Paul and Minneapolis. Called the Twin Cities Mobile Market, it’s focused on serving urban neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to healthy food. Anyone can shop this “market on a bus.” Get the schedule at thefoodgroupmn.org/twin-cities-mobile-market/.
The Food Group also has a community-supported agriculture program (CSA). Purchasing vegetables and fruits during the upcoming growing season will benefit beginning farmers as well as the group’s land-based education program. Info at bigriverfarms.thefoodgroupmn.org/buy-our-produce/csa/.
More food assistance:  To find out if you qualify for food assistance or to learn more about food shelves, free meals, farmers’ markets or other resources in your area, contact the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 888-711-1151 or go to hungersolutions.org/programs/mn-food-helpline/.
Also: The Greater Twin Cities United Way invites the community to donate culturally specific foods through April 7 to benefit people who are food insecure in the Twin Cities. Learn more about assembling “Flavors of our Community Packs” at gtcuw.org/flavors.
Energy bills: Struggling to pay rising energy bills? Minnesota’s energy assistance program determines eligibility based on your most recent three months of income; emergency help is also available. Get details on applying at mn.gov/commerce/consumers/consumer-assistance/energy-assistance/.
Energy efficiency: Don’t qualify for help with your energy bills, but want to learn more about making your home more efficient? Start with the Center for Energy and Environment to get resources on energy audits, rebates, solar financing and more at mncee.org/how-get-started.
Weatherization: Minnesota’s Weatherization Assistance Program provides free home energy upgrades to income-eligible homeowners and renters to help save energy and make sure homes are healthy and safe. Learn more at mn.gov/commerce/consumers/consumer-assistance/weatherization/.
Public transportation: The Transit Assistance Program (TAP) is designed to make public transit more affordable for lower income residents. TAP provides a reduced fare pass on a Go-To Card. It allows customers to use a bus or train for just $1 per ride – even during rush hour – with a 2½ hour transfer. Also: Youth ages six to 12 and seniors 65 and older are eligible for fare discounts that are not dependent on income. More info at metrotransit.org/fares.
Veterinary costs: Qualifying families can get low cost spaying/neutering of their pets as well as other services, including microchipping and some vaccines, through the Minnesota Spray and Neuter Assistance Program (MNSnap). Find out if you qualify and get more info at mnsnap.org/services/personal-pets. MNSnap also has a page of resources for other, low-cost veterinary care at mnsnap.org/faq/affordable-resourceslinks.
Pet owners can also check out Mission Animal Hospital, a nonprofit veterinary hospital in Eden Prairie, at missionah.org.
ValueCare Veterinary Care, with clinics in Richfield and Chaska, is another lower-cost option. Info at Valuecarevet.com or call 952-217-4365 (Richfield) or  952-217-4365 (Chaska).
If you know of other programs, resources, deals or tips on saving money during tough times, email Molly Guthrey at mguthrey@pioneerpress.com.
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