No matter the circumstances, knowing if you’ll have access to a hot meal should never be a concern. With food insecurity on the rise in International Falls, Minn., the small, but dedicated team at the Backus Community Café is working hard to meet their community’s need the best way they know how; providing essential meals to neighbors who need a helping hand.

In coordination with the Backus Community Center, the Backus Community Café provides free hot, nutritious meals twice each week to residents struggling to make ends meet, while bringing neighbors together and fostering community connections. 

“Through our organization, we aim to ensure that the people within our community never have to wonder where their next meal is coming from,” says Lois Lundin, executive director of Backus Community Center. “There is already so much going on in the world, we want to relieve families of one less thing to worry about.”

Backus Community Café began in 2012 preparing and serving meals with the help of local volunteers, but in recent years, local need for the café's support has increased exponentially. Between 2019 and 2021, the café increased the number of yearly meals provided from 4,600 to well over 25,000 in order to meet the demand of the community’s rising poverty rate and increased food insecurity in the wake of COVID-19. 

Through its work, the organization has also created an important avenue to build community. From its summer food service program for children, to the space it provides for elderly residents to gather and socialize, to the engagement of its local volunteers, the café continues to bring neighbors together to build community connection. 

And now Backus Community Café will have support from the Cenex® brand. The nonprofit was recently selected as the recipient of a $25,000 HOMETOWN PRIDE GRANT, presented by Cenex and Coop Service, Inc., based in Baudette, Minn. The grant initiative was established by Cenex, the energy brand of CHS, to support the philanthropic efforts that connect and support rural communities.

The café was nominated by Coop Service, Inc. for its dedication to providing accessible solutions to local food insecurity, while connecting and bonding residents from across the community.

“Within the past year, the Backus Community Café has become a huge rock in the community as it helps address such a great need in International Falls by providing an average of over 300 meals per week,” says Steve Crosby, lubricants manager of Coop Service, Inc. “We are grateful that, through [our partnership with] Cenex, we have the opportunity to further the impact of Backus Community Café, ultimately getting our community the resources, they desperately need.”

The group will use its Hometown Pride grant funds to make an even bigger impact in the northern Minnesota region and fund approximately 6,000 additional meals for its community members.

“Being rewarded this grant means so much to our small community,” says Lundin. “It brings us so much joy to be able to serve our community, especially having the ability to provide basic necessities to those who need it most.”

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