More than 3.9 million pounds added to the emergency food system in 2012.
Hunger-Free Minnesota announced that its agricultural surplus initiative has contributed 3.9 million pounds of produce to the emergency food system in 2012, a 102% increase over 2011. The campaign, including corporate and nonprofit partners and agencies statewide, aims to add a minimum of 15 million pounds (equivalent to 12.5 million meals) of food through procuring and distributing agricultural surplus to food shelves and meal programs throughout the state.
Every year, approximately 350 million pounds of potatoes, sweet corn and peas are unharvested, or harvested but not sold, in Minnesota. Capturing and distributing more of this agricultural surplus will provide a new source of healthy and nutritious food for Minnesotans in need. Produce from agricultural surplus — unharvested crops and food that has been harvested but not sold due to excess capacity — is projected to be the biggest driver of growth for emergency food nationally.
In 2011, Hunger-Free Minnesota formed a statewide group of leaders from across the agricultural supply chain and hunger-relief organizations, bringing together their cross-sector knowledge to develop strategy, overcome obstacles and create action plans for the 2012-2014 growing and harvest seasons. The group includes leaders from Cargill, Colle & McVoy, Dorsey & Whitney, Emergency Foodshelf Network, General Mills, Great Plains Food Bank, Hunger-Free Minnesota, Minnesota Agri-GrowthCouncil, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Second Harvest Heartland, andChannel One Regional Food Bank.
Agricultural Surplus Initiative Results At A Glance

  • 3.9 million pounds of agricultural surplus food delivered in 2012 — a 102% increase from 2011
  • 600,000 pounds of surplus sweet corn rescued through pilot program
  • 500+ farmers across Minnesota contacted through outreach and direct marketing
  • $435,000 in grants to increase capacity and absorption of surplus crops made to food banks serving 54 counties and 450,000+ Minnesotans

“We are thrilled to see the results of our collaboration in action,” said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota. “We have found that through strategic partnerships we can create sustainable systems to make sure this produce does not go to waste. We know that our work will lay the foundation to develop a model that can be replicated nationally.”
Ongoing Partnerships Lead to 600,000-pound Sweet Corn Rescue

In early September 2012, Hunger-Free Minnesota executed a pilot program, which resulted in the harvest and delivery of 600,000 pounds of surplus sweet corn to emergency hunger-relief organizations in ten states. The pilot project included multiple partners active in supply chain efforts to launch the first-of-its-kind agricultural surplus initiative in Minnesota. Partners include Cargill, General Mills, Seneca Foods Corporation, SUPERVALU Inc., and partnering Minnesota food banks.
Favorable conditions caused some corn in western Minnesota to ripen faster than it could be processed and a surplus was created. Because of months of logistical planning, the group was ready when a call came in that hundreds of thousands of pounds of sweet corn were ready to be harvested. Within 24 hours the partners mobilized to ensure that the surplus would not be wasted.
Seneca, a large corn buyer and processor, made it possible to immediately harvest and transport the ripe corn from multiple fields in Renville County, west of the Twin Cities, the evening of September 4, just after Labor Day. The fresh sweet corn was delivered just before dawn to a concrete slab that had been cleared for it at a Cargill grain storage facility in Savage, Minn. That’s where the corn was dropped in bulk, more than 100,000 pounds on the first day alone. A team of Cargill volunteers assembled cartons and bulk-packed the corn for shipment by refrigerated truck to the first drop points at Emergency Food Network (EFN) in New Hope and Second Harvest Heartland in Maplewood, Minn. SUPERVALU provided the refrigerated trucks to immediately cool and store the corn to keep the food’s nutritional content intact as it moved through the system to reach the consumer.
About Hunger-Free Minnesota
Hunger-Free Minnesota is a three-year campaign to close the 100-million missing-meal gap in Minnesota. Among its partners and supporters are community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies and organizations, food banks, food shelves, and corporations. Research partners include The Boston Consulting Group and EnSearch, Inc. Hunger-Free Minnesota’s strategic action plan focuses on emergency food system capacity, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child hunger and nutrition. The campaign encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.” More information is available at

Video: The Great Sweet Corn Rescue