North Minneapolis church offers food lifeline

Canopy shelters shade bags and boxes of groceries.
Sanctuary Covenant Church at the corner of Broadway and Aldrich avenues in north Minneapolis has become a primary spot for groceries in the neighborhood.
Alex Baumhardt | MPR News

More than 100 people lined up outside Sanctuary Covenant church Wednesday morning to receive groceries — peanut butter, mac and cheese and all sorts of other nonperishables.

After the death of George Floyd last week, Pastor Edrin Williams and members of the church wanted to get the neighborhood together for conversation and support. Last Wednesday they started grilling hot dogs out front. They told people to bring more food to put on the grill and to share. 

“The word somehow got out that we were taking all sorts of donations. And so tons and tons of cars just started showing up with other goods,” Williams said as he readied to hand out food to the folks in line. “And by the end of the day, our lobby was full of stuff. And we decided to just turn into a short-term food shelf. “

The Cub Foods across the street was the primary grocery store for the neighborhood, especially for anyone getting around on foot. Now it’s temporarily closed after looting and fire damage it sustained over the weekend. The Walgreens next door is temporarily closed as well.

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Sanctuary Church is trying to fill the void.

People gather to distribute supplies.
Pastor Edrin Williams says thousands have come through in the last week to get receive food and other goods.
Alex Baumhardt | MPR News

“We've been asking volunteers to show up at 11 and we've been saying at 12, we'll start handing out stuff. But as early as eight o'clock, nine o'clock in the morning, cars are rolling up dropping off supplies,” Williams said. “People are actually people came and put stuff outside the door last night while we were gone, just dropping off donations.”

Despite the enormous outpouring of donations, Williams says the need is greater. He says he’s seen thousands come through during the last week.

“Lines start forming two hours before we started giving away groceries. And they're here completely through the end of the time that we're serving. And then the next day, it's the same thing as well,” he said. “There's a huge need.”

Sanctuary has tried to limit giving from noon to 2 p.m. but they’re out there well past then each day. It’s exhausting, but necessary work, Williams says. 

“The thing that's keeping me up there is not even like exhaustion from this. It's worrying about facilities and institutions in the community,” he said. “It's hard to go to sleep at night not knowing if your church is going to be there next morning.”