VEAP is a basic needs and social services organization with the mission of: Together we create pathways to stronger, more hopeful, communities through access to healthy foods, housing stability and supportive services. VEAP provides services to low-income residents of Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and south Minneapolis (south of 50th Street and west of Cedar Avenue). To deliver its programs, VEAP depends on a corps of 3,000 individuals who dedicate their time, energy and talent in service to this community.
Access to Healthy Foods: VEAP's Food Program includes a food pantry, a mobile food pantry, supplemental food programs for youth (Summer Youth Food and Student Hunger Collaborative which provides weekend food), rides home from the pantry, food pantry shuttle service and food deliveries for the seniors and the disabled, and NEAT (Nutrition Education and Teaching) classes which are held in VEAP's commercial and teaching kitchen.
VEAP operates one of the largest food pantries in the state with approximately 10,000 individuals having access to health foods every month. In 2017, over 3.7 million pounds of food was distributed, 55% of which was fresh fruits and vegetables. VEAP can feed one person for one week for $1.50 and thinks of food pantry visits as a key strategy to help clients stay current on their rent and meet other basic needs. In the summer of 2017, VEAP piloted extra food pantry visits for families with school-aged children resulting in 1,200 additional appointments over the summer. Given the success of that pilot, this year we have expanded annual food pantry visits from 12 to 16 for families with children and will make that option available to all clients in 2019. Clients are able to use these visits any time throughout the year when they may be experiencing increased financial distress.
In March 2018, VEAP launched a Mobile Food Pantry program made possible through financial support from Thermo King and Western National Insurance Group. The Mobile Food Pantry currently has two distribution sites in Bloomington - on Wednesday afternoons at Southdate Apartments and Friday afternoons at Dar Al-Faroog Islamic Center. The Mobile Food Pantry also distributed at Normandale Community College and occasional neighborhood events.
Safe, affordable, dignified housing: The common denominator of all VEAP clients is income-based, however, the second is housing-related. The current rental market in our community is in crisis. Vacancy rates are at an all-time low and families and individuals in our community are spending 50,60 and up to 80% of their income on housing. VEAP's licensed social workers, bilingual community health worker and other staff, support families in financial crisis, most facing a housing crisis, to connect them with VEAP and other community resources to help them remain stable in their housing.
Building social connections and supports: VEAP works to increase client resourcefulnesses as part of providing support services to families and individuals accessing VEAP services. Our strategies include working directly with clients on increasing skills in creating a budget,k how to advocate or change providers to reduce expenses, resume and application building, job search, how to start the disability application process, how to look for housing, basic computer literacy and how to access county and medical programs. These resource building activities are focused on increasing skills/resources and knowledge needed to increase their income.