‘Healthy’ change coming soon to Valley Outreach

Agency to rearrange food shelf, Clothing Closet, offer healthier food

091913_Valley Outreach
A volunteer stocks jelly in the Valley Outreach food shelf. The agency is stocking healthier foods in the food shelf and will install a cooler and freezer cases to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Executive Director Christine Tubbs. (Gazette file photo)

Healthy changes are coming for Valley Outreach and its clients over the next several weeks.

The Stillwater social service agency will close its Clothing Closet and food shelf until early October to rearrange shelves and racks and install food coolers and freezers in the food shelf. The changes are designed  to make both operations efficient and user friendly for clients, according to Valley Outreach Executive Director Christine Tubbs.

The food shelf’s new cooler and freezer will allow Valley Outreach to offer healthier food selections at its food shelf including fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, Tubbs said.

“Our biggest change for the food shelf is changing to a healthy choice food shelf,” she said.

Tubbs said the physical changes being made at the agency’s Curve Crest Boulevard headquarters involve moving shelves into configurations that are more efficient for clients to navigate.

“We won’t be expanding the physical space we have. We’ll be using our space more efficiently,” she said.

Valley Outreach closes the Clothing Closet, formerly known as Dawn’s Closet, Monday for two weeks and re-opens Oct. 7, Tubbs said.

“The food shelf will be closing Sept. 30 and will also be re-opening Oct. 7,” she added.

But Tubbs assures Valley Outreach clients the agency will be available to offer any needed emergency assistance.

“During that time, if our clients have any emergency needs, we will be ready to assist them,” she said.

When Valley Outreach reopens its food shelf, Tubbs said it will be stocked with healthier food items. It is a change she said the agency officials have been considering for some time.

Tubbs said Valley Outreach and many other food shelves distributing non-perishable foods found that many donated items were high in sodium or trans fats. Agency officials then sought funds and found local partners to help take the necessary steps to offer healthier food to its clients.

“We received a Greater Twin Cities United Way grant,” she said. “As we applied for the grant, we identified a partnership with the Lakeview Foundation and PowerUp 4 kids. We knew it was a growing need.”

Tubbs said Valley Outreach will use the United Way grant for infrastructure, database, web site improvements and purchasing food.

“The total cost of this project is $50,000. Most important, it had start-up money to buy the food to make the switch,” she said.

What foods will clients find at the Valley Outreach food shelf when it reopens next month?

“We always go back to our top five items: 100 percent juice, canned fish, whole oat cereals like Cheerios, peanut butter and hearty soups like Progresso; more like meals in a can,” she said.

Although Valley Outreach accepts food donations, Tubbs said the agency always accepts money donations.

“For every $1 we receive, we’re able to buy $10 of food through our many partners,” she said.

Tubbs said one way Valley Outreach is promoting the switch to healthier foods to its clients is through sample tasting of dishes similar to tastings grocery stores offer.
“For the first part of the year, we’re focusing on sampling at the food shelf. It’s more making sure they (clients) taste the healthier foods and realize that they are good,” she said.

Tubbs said clients have reacted positively to the healthier foods offered by Valley Outreach. She mentioned one woman who lost 20 pounds eating more fruits and vegetables offered at the food shelf.

“Now with so much produce, her life is turning around. That’s pretty neat. What we’re doing is life changing,” Tubbs said.

Contact Erik Sandin at [email protected]