If families can shop and select unlimited fresh fruits and veggies, children will surely become healthier. Rosemount Food Shelf now offers its clients the healthy choice food model, a healthier way to offer food to individuals and families in need.

Natalie Schmidgall, resource center and food shelf coordinator, said families are now encouraged to take as much fresh produce as their family will eat.

Working with 360 Communities for eight years, Schmidgall has led the staff and a large group of volunteers at Rosemount Food Shelf for almost four years.

"The goal of all food shelves is to move to that healthy choice food model," Schmidgall said. "We want families to have a choice on what fresh produce they are selecting so there is less waste, and they can pick out what their families need and what their family eats at home."

The Rosemount Food Shelf offers fresh produce, meat, dairy and deli.

If they need, volunteers can help clients with recipes to use fresh produce or get to know the families to build a stronger community.

Besides taking food donations, Rosemount Food Shelf orders food from Second Harvest and The Food Group, the local providers for food shelves in Minnesota.

"We prioritize our spending on how we are going to spend our dollars, so we have decided as an organization that we are not going to buy things like mac and cheese and canned pasta," Schmidgall said. "We prioritize our dollars to buy healthy food options."

The food shelf uses its funds and smaller budget from state and federal grants to purchase its products. The food shelf gathers food in three ways - donations from the community, Second Harvest food and food donated from what is called "rescue food."

"Rescue food comes in when we make connections with store partners Rosemount Cub Foods, Aldi in Rosemount, Kwik Trip, CVS and Eagan Cub Foods," Schmidgall said.

The Rosemount Food Shelf is able to take in 20,000 to 50,000 pounds of food each month from what is considered to be rescued food that in the past may have been thrown away.

"A lot of the food is great quality and we assume about 10 to 15 percent is waste," Schmidgall said.

Quality control volunteers examine all food to make sure the products are excellent, not expired and look appealing to the customers.

"We talk a lot about what food insecurity looks like outside of the United States, and that is not what it looks like here," Schmidgall said.

In the United States, food insecurity can look like diabetes and obesity in youth and adults. Youth may begin eating more junk food that may be more affordable but is less healthy and holds less nutrient value.

The food shelf also helps provides nutritious food for senior citizens via the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors.

"This is a statewide program that helps seniors 60 years and over," Schmidgall said.

The Rosemount Food Shelf serves as a distribution site. NAPS boxes are prepackaged with extra food like cereal, juice and canned goods.

Rosemount Food Shelf also serves as a place where staff and volunteers schedule and book appointments for clients in Rosemount and Burnsville. The food shelf depends on more than 60 volunteers who help the facility serve the community's needs.

"Our location is really unique because we are surrounded by many of the families who receive our services and they are our neighbors," Schmidgall said. "A lot of them are not coming in just for food but they are coming in to visit."