Each year since 2011, Minnesotans in need have made more than 3 million visits to food shelves to help feed their families. And in our region, one in 10 households is food insecure. That means they can’t access enough healthy food to feed their families well.

Surveys show nine in 10 people who have used food shelves want to choose healthier foods. But because they can’t afford these items, they rely on food shelves to help fill the gap. Surveys have also found that people who are food insecure have higher rates of health problems. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

Most of health happens outside the doctor’s office.

Only about 20 percent of a person’s health is determined by the care they receive in hospitals and clinics. The rest is influenced by social and economic factors. That’s why HealthPartners has partnered with our communities to improve the overall health of those we serve.

Since 2012, HealthPartners has worked with six food shelves to create Better Shelves for Better Health. Sponsored by our PowerUp initiative, these projects have transformed food shelves and increased their clients’ access to healthier foods. In 2017, our work in this area expanded even more. We partnered with the University of Minnesota, The Food Group and Valley Outreach to create SuperShelf. And together, we’re reaching even more food shelves throughout Minnesota and helping them offer better options.

You can play a role in supporting local food shelves, too.

When you make a donation, choose better-for-you options. Below is a grocery list to help guide you. Still not sure what to donate? Monetary donations are always appreciated. Food shelves can use cash donations to purchase healthier options at lower prices.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Canned and colorful vegetables
  • Canned or dried fruit*
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Vegetable juice
  • Fresh or frozen produce. (First check with the food shelf to make sure it’s set up to store these items.)

Whole grains

  • Brown or wild rice
  • Pasta, where first ingredient listed is a whole grain
  • Whole-grain and enriched pasta (without extra seasonings or sauces)
  • Whole-grain cold cereals like shredded wheat, toasted oats or raisin bran
  • Whole-grain hot cereals like oatmeal, cream of wheat and grits
  • Whole-grain crackers*
  • Corn or whole-wheat tortillas that don’t need to be refrigerated
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Popcorn*
  • Whole-grain granola*


  • Low-fat or non-fat shelf-stable milk, powdered or evaporated milk
  • Low-fat soy, almond or rice milk*


  • Peanut butter, sunflower and almond butter
  • Canned meats and fish packed in water, like chicken, tuna, salmon and sardines
  • Canned beans
  • Dried beans and peas, like black beans, black-eye peas, chickpeas beans, kidney beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pecans

Other items*

  • Spaghetti or tomato sauce
  • Canned and shelf-stable soups and broths
  • Vegetable oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Condiments
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Herbs and spices
  • Dressings, marinades, dip mixes

*Look for lower sugar and low-salt/low-sodium items when possible