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COVID-19 Funding from Greater Twin Cities United Way “Invaluable” for CEAP

A group of people stand in front of a shelf filled with produce

United Way Staff


“We are really in the thick of it right now,” said CEAP President Clare Brumback, speaking about her nonprofit’s food shelf. “And I expect demand to skyrocket over the coming months.”

Community Emergency Assistance Programs, or CEAP, was founded in 1970 as a food resource for the Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park communities. Today, their model is “neighbors helping neighbors”- many of the volunteers at the food shelf are also clients, and many donors are former volunteers and clients.

Greater Twin Cities United Way and CEAP have a longstanding relationship- United Way funds CEAP’s work in food security as well as serves as a thought leadership and capacity-building partner.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, CEAP knew it was only a matter of time before cases came to Minnesota, affecting the economy- and in turn, visits to their food shelf.

“We knew there was going to be a definite need due to COVID-19 on top of the existing need that has always been here,” said Brumback. “Sure enough, over the past four to six weeks we’ve seen a 25% uptick of first-time visitors to the food shelf. Most are people who have had their hours reduced or lost jobs.”

Increased demand increases CEAP’s costs- that’s why the agency was grateful for an emergency grant from the Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Early in the crisis, Greater Twin Cities United Way sought the engagement of 95 nonprofit partners to identify the most pressing community needs and created the Response and Recovery Fund. CEAP was one of 31 nonprofits who received a first round grant on March 25 to address critical needs- such as purchasing additional food for their food shelf.

“It was proactive, immediate, and invaluable,” Brumback said of the United Way COVID-19 disbursement. “I was relieved. Instead of wondering how we could handle the increased demand, the grant allowed us to focus on serving our individuals and families. We are so appreciative of United Way, as well as the community’s generosity, so we can feed our hungry neighbors.”

CEAP’s service model has pivoted from in-person shopping to curbside pickup, with appointments staggered to allow for proper social distancing and sanitation. Those in need of support can contact CEAP to speak with a staff member and schedule a time to receive boxes and bags of fresh produce, meat, dairy, and grains. They also include things like hand soap, personal care items, toilet paper, and paper towels as well as diapers and formula for infants.

“The food we pack for families is chosen thoughtfully. We want to be a source of care and comfort in uncertain times,” Brumback said. “We don’t want families to be stressed; we want to get food to everyone who needs it and ensure they have what they need to create healthy, nutritious meals.”

Brumback said Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund dollars are making a huge difference for CEAP, and she hopes community members in a position to make a gift will consider doing so.

“When you give to United Way, you give to an organization that is best equipped to get money where it’s most needed,” said Brumback. “United Way has the connections and expertise to understand what the front-line needs are, fundraise for those needs, and get dollars in the hands of nonprofits to change the community.”

About the Author

Greater Twin Cities United Way unites changemakers, advocates for social good and develops solutions to address the challenges no one can solve alone to create a community where all people thrive. Together with our partners, we’re meeting immediate community needs while transforming inequitable systems in the areas of housing, food, education and jobs.

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