Pillsbury United Communities Waite House

Located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, Pillsbury United Communities’ Waite House is not your typical community center. Families with energetic young children head upstairs to the nursery, young adults from diverse backgrounds staff the small radio station, and seniors chat in multiple different languages in the brightly-colored rooms. Pillsbury attracts individuals and families who have immigrated to Minnesota from all around the world.

Pillsbury has been around for more than 100 years and has been a Greater Twin Cities United Way partner for nearly the entire time. Within food security, their Waite House location provides a healthy, free lunch to more than 100 people five days a week in their Community Café, as well as free fruits and vegetables to nearly 200 people twice a month on Produce Day.

Head chef Jose Llamgari selects the cafe menu and preps nourishing fare from donations and “retail rescue”- leftovers rescued from large grocery retailers.

“The menu is dependent on donations- if we get apples, we use apples,” he said. “But we focus on fresh food always- today the menu is bulgur, tofu, and fresh greens.”

In his four years in the kitchen, Llamgari has seen firsthand how integral nutritious food is to a person’s well-being.

“I like talking with people when they are eating my food and asking them how they feel,” he said.

“Healthy is life- when you feel better, life goes better.”

Pillsbury Food Systems Manager Ethan Neal said the bimonthly Produce Day makes obtaining fresh fruits and vegetables possible for some community members who otherwise would not have affordable access to produce.

“We want to make eating well easy and equitable while serving people with dignity in a community way,” he said. “The farm-to-table approach should not be limited to organic restaurants- it should be available to everyone.”

Through Pillsbury United Communities’ Café and Produce Day, United Way is making a huge impact on the lives of families and individuals in the greater Twin Cities who come seeking fresh food and leave not only with nourishment, but also a strong sense of community.