By: NobleHour Special Contributor Meagan Pierluissi

Loaves and Fishes of Minnesota knows the healing power of freshly grown fruits and vegetables brought directly to the table of those who need it most. What started in 1982 as a way to bring food to two sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul, has grown into dining locations in six counties, serving more than 2,000 nutritious meals a day. 

To ensure their guests received only the freshest produce, Loaves and Fishes created Farm for All, an exciting project incorporating multiple farm locations to further support the dining experience. Considering the average dining guest lives on $781 a month, making access to meals is a critical need for Minnesota residents. 

“What we’ve found out is that 65 percent of our older guests have diabetes,” says Cathy Maes, Loaves and Fishes executive director. “I just hope people feel better; food is medicine.”

Loaves and Fishes was recently awarded $50,000 from a grant competition through NobleCause to foster volunteerism throughout the nation. This funding allows the organization to find passionate gardening volunteers to take the lead at the farms without stretching their staff budget.

What we’ve found out is that 65 percent of our older guests have diabetes. I just hope people feel better; food is medicine.
— Cathy Maes, Loaves and Fishes Executive Director

“The NobleCause grant is opening up doors and allowing us to tell our story and the story of the farms, so we can do even more this year and keep our costs down,” says Cathy Maes, Loaves and Fishes executive director. “With the farms, we’re able to accept large groups of volunteers and gardening enthusiasts who want to give back to the community.”

A large component of the NobleCause grant includes education aspects for volunteers—connecting those sharing their time and talents to the way the organization is transforming the communities they serve. “We have four separate education opportunities for volunteers: food justice, gardening, poverty, and homelessness. Many of our volunteers are baby boomers who crave education and learning. We’re getting really consistent and loyal volunteers through this opportunity.”

The statistics of hunger in Minnesota are staggering, with one in 10 households lacking access to adequate food. Not only is the organization providing health-conscious meals, but it focuses on introducing different varieties of produce to guests. 

“We brought in spinach from the farms to serve as a salad along with strawberries,” Cathy says of one dining experience. “A woman was eating it as I was telling her about the farm it came from, and she asked me what it was. She said, ‘It tastes like velvet.’ For people who have lived in poverty, the lettuce they eat is more water than it is lettuce.”

Loaves and Fishes watches trends on homelessness, poverty, and food injustice in their area while working toward solutions. With the NobleCause grant, the organization is creating a lasting connection to feeding their neighbors through Farm for All.

Do you want to volunteer with organizations like Loaves and Fishes? Sign up for your free NobleHour account today to find meaningful opportunities in your community.

The NobleCause grants, organized by, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, Florida. Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.

Meagan Pierluissi is a freelance writer, blogger, and public relations strategist from Atlanta, Georgia., with an overwhelming wish to connect people through storytelling. True to her southern roots, Meagan enjoys good food, slow conversations, and getting out into nature with her husband and daughter.