Jonathan Palmer Hallie Q. Brown

Founded in 1929, Hallie Q. Brown is an African American, nonprofit social service agency primarily serving the Summit-University area of Saint Paul. Executive Director Jonathan Palmer has been with the organization for more than a decade and shares that Greater Twin Cities United Way helped Hallie build its foundation.

“We’ve been around for 90 years, and Greater Twin Cities United Way was actually our first funder,” Palmer said. “They have been a huge supporter of ours for a very long time.”

United Way funds Hallie Q. Brown’s work in food security, including a food shelf serving 19 zip codes.

“The food shelf is our biggest area of need, and unfortunately, we see the need get greater and greater every year,” Palmer said. “Often, it’s individuals and families dealing with the unexpected—a job loss, a medical bill, a fire. They don’t know what to do, so they come here.”

Hallie Q. Brown’s food shelf is based on a client-choice model, where community members pick items that meet their preferences as well as dietary and cultural needs. When a client walks in the door, they are greeted by bright yellow walls, colorful produce, and friendly staff.

“We are trying to remove the stigma associated with food shelves, as well as provide a better way to support individuals and families,” said Palmer.

There is a focus on fresh and perishable items, like dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables. To help, a gardening initiative was launched two years ago to supply produce to the food shelf—five plots onsite provide tomatoes, peas, carrots, peppers, and strawberries in the summer months.

Hallie is there to help, no matter why community members come in the door or what type of food they are seeking.

Food is a basic need to survive. If people are in crisis, it can be the first piece that lets them breathe for a second,” Palmer said. “Then, we can hear them, and they can hear us, and we can begin a conversation and relationship.”

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