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PROP Food Shelf

On a Mission to Feed, Nourish, and Strengthen Our Community

People Reaching Out to People, or PROP, is much more than a food shelf. Their panoply of social services have helped families throughout Eden Prairie and Chanhassen to endure financial hardship with health, dignity and hope. They currently serve approximately 1,000 households every year – many of which, in time, no longer require their aid. 

PROP Food Shelf traces their roots back to a single act of kindness. Fifty years ago Gerry Beckmann and her daughter Melissa arranged a small food drive at Immanuel Lutheran Church. With their friends’ assistance they assembled six nice, hearty baskets of food to be delivered to families in need around the neighborhood. Not a massive undertaking by any measure, but in an era before food shelves were common it was a singular gesture.

The parishioners of other churches soon joined Gerry and her friends to help even more families in need. Benevolence is contagious. PROP grew until incorporation made sense in 1980, though it largely remains the local community’s volunteer effort.

Kelli Steidle was once one of those volunteers. She relocated to Eden Prairie from Nebraska with her family in 2015, only to discover that Minnesota’s winters are far drearier than the tropical clime she had departed. (More or less.) Kelli was already looking for a way to combat the doldrums when a church lawn’s banner caught her eye: “GOT FOOD?” 

After some inquiry Kelli learned the sign was an invitation to donate to PROP. She chose to donate her time by working side by side with others, stacking food on the shelves, receiving deliveries, and ensuring that everyone who came through the door left with a bag full of groceries. When PROP staff discovered Kelli had experience working in food marketing for several large corporations, it was a serendipitous moment when passion and experience met. Today Kelli is PROP’s marketing director.

“Thanks to the generous support of our community, we’re able to provide a range of groceries to anyone who’s experiencing difficulty making ends meet,” said Kelli. “In order to better serve those in need, we also offer specific food programs to the more vulnerable members of our community. Our summer food program offers kid-friendly boxes of food – fruit, vegetables, cheese, canned chicken, pasta, peanut butter and the like – to children whose parents rely on free breakfasts and lunches during the regular school year. We also offer a senior’s program, where recipients pick out the foods they would like delivered to their doorsteps.

“PROP Food Shelf is best known as exactly that – a food shelf. But our support goes far beyond providing nourishment to those who need it. We also offer short-term financial assistance to ensure families have access to sustainable housing. This assistance may be as direct as helping to pay their rent, although we often cover other essential expenses including utilities, childcare, auto repair and prescription medications.

“Those who receive our assistance may also work with a case manager. They work with them to develop a one, two or three-month plan to become more self-sufficient, which may include help seeking employment services, applying for jobs and rehearsing for job interviews, and searching for more affordable long-term housing. For some, it is the assistance with financial planning that positively impacts their future independence.

“PROP also offers stability services, which includes partnering with nutritional coaching and mental health care for anyone who would like it, as well as enrichment programs for children and young adults. These can be anything from driver’s ed to babysitting classes to gymnastics classes – any extracurricular activity which kids’ parents might otherwise have been unable to afford. And thanks to the support of the community, we are able to give families gift cards during the holiday season. That helps people buy presents for their kids, which can be as great a necessity as food as far as the heart is concerned.

“We serve between 3,300 to 3,400 people every year. Forty percent of them are younger than 18 years old; 31 percent are single mothers who often have to choose between going to work and staying at home to raise their children.

“When you donate food, money, or even some of your time to PROP, your donation truly stays within the community. Knowing that I can help my neighbor have food on their table or a roof over their head today …that is an indescribably rewarding feeling.”

You can learn more about PROP Food Shelf’s mission as well as how to donate by visiting propfood.org.

"I have been using PROP since June, 2017, and am so amazed by this organization. PROP has helped me and my girls so much! I have been a single mom to three girls for almost 5-1/2 years. I had always heard of PROP, but never went there because I was a bit embarrassed (which was silly of me). I figured I could handle it all on my own! I work six days a week – 39 hours at my job. It has always been hard to make ends meet. Thankfully a coworker convinced me to meet her at PROP one day. Before PROP I would use up my EBT the first two weeks of the month. The next two weeks I would have food for my girls but I would barely eat myself. After rent, utilities and the basics were paid, it was hard to have much money left over for food. What money I did have I made sure my girls ate. The first day I came home from PROP – which happened to be the last day of school – my daughter came home and said, ‘Wow mom, the fridge is full!’ My fridge was never full before PROP. Now it is every month! Thank you so much!”  – PROP client

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What does your donation do?

$3,500 buys one month of food for the food shelf
$1,400 keeps a family stably housed
$1,000 sponsors a day at the food shelf
$250 purchases summer food for kids’ “youth packs”
$100 gives one child a scholarship to participate in an enrichment activity
$50 feeds a family of four today

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