Food pantry serving Dakota County relocates to Eagan.
Poverty hides in the suburbs, especially for seniors and children. The Open Door food pantry serves over 14,000 Dakota County residents each month because hunger is an issue in our community.
A new facility makes it easier to accommodate local families. The nonprofit organization recently moved to an 18,800-square-foot leased facility at 3000 Ames Crossing Road in Eagan, near Viking Lakes. “Our new building gives us the space to do more of what we’ve already been doing—getting healthy food to every part of our community that needs it,” says Jason Viana, executive director of The Open Door.
For 14 years, The Open Door has served the community by creating more ways to access fresh food. Its four programs include a shop-by-appointment pantry, mobile pantry, mobile lunch box for students and community gardens.
The new facility brings warehouse, pantry and administrative offices together under one roof with twice as much space as before. Development and communications manager Melissa Miller says it’s easier for volunteers, clients and staff to connect. The layout “brings a lot of continuity to our work, and it’s a collaborative atmosphere,” Miller says.
The pantry area has increased from 900 square feet to 4,000 and is like a small grocery store with displays of fresh produce, a wall of reach-in coolers and shelves of fresh bread.
New drive-in docks, in-ground floor scales and a custom walk-in refrigerator donated by Minnwest Bank make lifting and hauling tons of food every day more efficient.
“When distributing food to our local senior living communities, volunteers can load the refrigerated trucks 80 percent faster than in the old space,” Viana says. The Open Door’s mobile pantry services more than 28 community sites throughout the county with fresh and healthy food.
For Dakota County’s youngest community members, federal programs offer free meals at school during the summer. But finding transportation to these hot meals isn’t easy for many suburban students. “Second Harvest Heartland did a study several years ago and found that one of the largest meal gaps in the state is with suburban children in the summer,” Miller says.
To close the gap, The Open Door created The Mobile Lunchbox Program, where volunteers collect prepared meals from the school and deliver them directly to students.
While other food relief organizations closed during the pandemic, The Open Door grew. With 50–130 volunteers a day working hard behind the scenes, everyone is thankful for the new space.
The new facility also offers clients access to additional support from workforce development to rental assistance. Programs and efforts like these are why The Open Door is one of the state’s top three hunger relief organizations.
When asked how to help, Miller encourages people and groups to hold fund drives. “We will never turn away food,” Miller says. “But partnerships with food wholesalers mean we can buy more food with dollar donations,” with one exception—personal hygiene products.
It’s not only food that people are rationing. Products like deodorant, diapers, toothpaste, tampons and toilet paper are in high demand. “These items don’t qualify for SNAP and aren’t items The Open Door can purchase at wholesale prices,” Miller says.
The Open Door
3000 Ames Crossing Road Suite 100, Eagan; 651.888.0630