Minnesota’s Open Arms takes the food/health connection to a whole new level

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We’ve come a long way since the fat-free craze in the 90s, indulging in sugar-laced Snackwell cookies and pudding cups as if they were a healthier treat. (And yes those were definitely two of my favorites.) Our knowledge of food and health has grown and shifted dramatically moving more towards natural foods with the public asking for organic and local produce and folks actually seeking out kale as a main dish rather than a side garnish.

The message is clear: simple, whole, natural food that grows from the soil is better for your body and your health.

And one local organization is taking the food and health connection to another level. Based right in the Twin Cities, the nonprofit Open Arms of Minnesota works to nourish the body, mind, and soul.

The main mission of Open Arms is to help nourish and cook for Minnesotans who live with life-threatening illnesses. As Open Arms says, “It’s a simple notion: people who are sick should not be without food.” More times than not, they don’t have a support network in place. And so Open Arms steps in and cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities while also providing healthy meals for their children and for their caregivers.

Open Arms believes that “food is medicine, and eating delicious, nutritious meals helps make [their] clients’ medicines and treatments more effective so they are able to lead healthier, more independent lives.” Many of their clients are living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and ALS and Open Arms works with dieticians and chefs to create menus and meal plans that cater to each person’s nutritional needs while also tasting delicious.

Aside from items like crackers and cereal, Open Arms grows, cooks, and bakes all of their food in-house harvesting the fresh, organic produce from one of their many urban gardens throughout the cities. With two gardens in Minneapolis and two in St. Paul, Open Arms turned vacant lots around the cities into thriving urban farms growing organic vegetables and herbs for their kitchens and for their Open Farms CSA that you can partake in and receive your own fresh farm-to-table veggies. They make sure to use natural growing methods like permaculture, companion planting, and crop rotation working with nature to build healthy soil and create sustainable agriculture.

Indeed, Open Arms is truly unique in the way that it supports our local community across multiple platforms. They’re contributing the health of the entire Twin Cities community, growing healthy, natural foods sustainably, and creating beautiful urban farms helping to change the cityscape and support the environment.

And you can be a part of it.

Open Arms is able to do its incredible work with the help of more than 7,300 volunteers that help cook and deliver more than 600,000 meals to their clients. This year, mark your calendar for September 21st and 22nd for the 5th annual Open Arms Cook-a-Thon event.

This event aims to hit the goal of preparing 11,000 meals in just 24 hours. In teams of six, volunteers will work in two-hour shifts during the 24 hours partaking in a friendly competition to see which team can pack the most meals and raise the most money for the Open Arms mission with the top teams receiving special prizes, cool swag, and of course, bragging rights.

There’s still time to register your own team if you want to participate in this awesome event or you can always support another team by donating whatever you can to their Cook-a-Thon team.

And if you’re looking for a team to support and root on, two of our very own Twin Cities Agenda web designers and writers, Lisa and Sarah, have been volunteering with Open Arms and created a team to take part in the great Cook-a-Thon event. If you want to support their Open Arms Cook-a-Thon team just click here:

www.openarmscookathon.org/btdbrand

(They also both look adorable in hairnets.)

Whether you volunteer by packing meals, working in the urban gardens, joining their CSA, or signing up or donating to the great Cook-a-Thon event, you know you will be helping an amazing organization that is giving back and supporting our local community on a whole other level.

Read this next: “Lalo’s Lunchbox” is the local show getting kids excited about healthy eating