"Everyone deserves healthy food where they live or where they can get to it." That's the basic idea behind Fare For All (FFA), according to Scott Weatherhead, the nonprofit's program manager.
The program began as Fare Share in 1986, part of a nationwide network of Cooperative Food Purchasing programs. Now under the hunger relief organization The Food Group (formerly Emergency Foodshelf Network), FFA specializes in offering affordable fresh produce and frozen meat to communities of need.
Using a cooperative food purchasing model that utilizes bulk buying power, FFA purchases produce and meat in large quantities at wholesale prices, enabling the organization to pass along to the consumer discounts of up to 40 percent off typical store prices.
"People often ask, 'How can you sell your stuff so cheap?'" said Weatherhead. "Well, it's simple. We have something that a lot of places don't have. We have a large warehouse; we have huge freezers and we have large trucks. So we buy in bulk. We buy from a lot of Minnesota companies… We are buying the same packages that the grocery stores are, and the more food that we buy, the lower our costs.
"When I first came here, we were buying 5,000 pounds of chicken at a time. Now we're buying 15,000 pounds because we're selling more. Because of that, for five years, our prices have not gone up and our packages are bigger and better than they were five years ago. The difference between what we pay and what we sell trazodone elderly insomnia for is mostly just to cover transportation costs to get out to some of these areas."
FFA has 31 sites in the Greater Twin Cities metro area where food packages are distributed once a month for two hours. The offerings include a $25 mega-meat pack with a variety of seven to nine meat items; an $11 mini-pack with four meat items; a $10 produce pack consisting of 15 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables; and a combo pack with a mix of fresh produce and meat for $20.
FFA offers "hot buys" of popular items at each site. In January, for example, the hot buy is a five-pound package of boneless chicken breast tenderloins for $8; in March, an Easter brunch box; and in the summer, a grill box with burgers, steaks and other meat that can be grilled. Also, warehouse sales are held every other Monday in New Hope. At this location, items are sold individually as well as in packages.
Weatherhead shared the reasoning behind the choice of food offerings: "If you notice, our food is fruits and vegetables and frozen meats - not canned goods. When you go to a store, the two most costly things that you'll see in the store are fruits and vegetables and frozen meats."
He went on to note how unhealthy processed foods (like chips and cookies) are often much cheaper. "A lot of people can only afford so much and want to get as much as they can for as little as possible. I understand that. So at FFA, we said, instead of buying cookies and crackers because they are cheap, what if we made the good food affordable? So, instead of two or three bags of potato chips for $5, what if they can get a produce pack - enough for the whole month - for $10?"
He added, "The one thing we struggle with a little bit is when people say they want organic food. Organic food costs more. So there's no way we can buy organic food in bulk and get trazodone elderly insomnia to them at a $10 price." Depending on the season, the produce is either locally grown or sent from all over the country, according to the website.
There are no limits for packages, and all forms of payment, including EBT cards, are accepted except for personal checks. Participants are not required to prepay or preorder, and unlike many other discount food programs, there are no income qualifications or restrictions.
Also, site volunteers bring the groceries to the cars for shoppers and unload the items. Weatherhead likened the experience to the old "full-service filling stations" from back in the day.