Minneapolis resident Darrell Scott walked 56 blocks to the People & Pets Together food shelf on a recent Saturday morning for specialty food for his cockatiel.
The self-described animal lover said the food helped him keep his bird fed when finances were tight. “It was a blessing they were able to have cockatiel food,” he said.
The Minneapolis nonprofit organization helps ensure that pet owners can receive those benefits through tough financial times.
People & Pets Together provides pet food, vaccinations and supplies at no cost to people who need the extra help caring for their pets.
This January, the organization opened the first pet food shelf in Minnesota, from which it distributes food and supplies to food shelves around the metro.
“People often feed their pets over themselves, and we want to make sure they’re not having to make that choice,” said Dr. Adam Bennett, a veterinarian and board member. “If you take care of the animals, you’re taking care of the people.”
People & Pets Together developed out of the passion of Kim Carrier, a pet lover who wanted to ensure people could keep their pets through hard times. In 2009, she began collecting pet food and donating it to people in need. Her efforts led to the creation of a nonprofit called the Pet Project. The organization collected about 25,000 pounds of food in its first five months and began hosting vaccination clinics and fundraising events.
This past summer, it changed its name to People & Pets Together and announced its intentions of opening the food shelf in Minneapolis.
“We found that having our own space really lent us a sense of legitimacy for potential donors,” Carrier said. “When you’re working out of homes and coffee shops with a P.O. Box for an address, people are hesitant to help fund the vision. It’s easy to drop off food donations, too, when you have a destination.”
The organization decided to open the food shelf in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, an area Carrier described as a “food desert.” Carrier also operates a hair salon in the neighborhood.
People & Pets opened the space in January and has continued to distribute about 5,000 pounds of food per month to nine local food shelves. Program director Laura Atneosen said dozens of Powderhorn and Phillips neighborhood residents have signed up for monthly services since the opening. To qualify, clients must be accepting some kind of public assistance or make below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Once a month, they can pick up food, a treat, a toy and one additional item such as cat litter.
People & Pets also offers quarterly vaccination clinics and will help pay veterinarian bills in limited situations. The organization relies entirely on donations and volunteers for its supplies and distribution and has one part-time staffer in Atneosen.
About 400 families ask for pet food each month at ICA Food Shelf in Hopkins, according to associated director Jason Palm. People & Pets provides food to ICA, which Palm said is greatly appreciated.
“For a family that views their pet as a member of the family, that’s something they’re not going to give up,” he said. “We really value what they do.”
By the numbers
— 150:Number of people who volunteer with People
& Pets Together
— 5,000: Number of pounds of pet food the organization distributes each month on average
— 9: Twin Cities food shelves where People & Pets distributes food
— 23: Number of pets the organization vaccinated at one of its recent quarterly vaccination clinics
— 1: Number of food shelves in Minnesota dedicated entirely toward pets
At a glance
What you can do
Volunteer to help plan an event, write a grant, maintain the website or more.
Drop off pet food at the food shelf. People & Pets accepts donations from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Participate in the Fast and the Furry Races and Pet Expo on May 21 at Harriet Island in St. Paul.
About the Where We Live project
This project is an ongoing series spearheaded by Journals’ publisher Janis Hall showcasing Minneapolis nonprofits doing important work in the community. The editorial team has selected organizations to spotlight. Nate Gotlieb is the writer for the project.