By Jordyn DiOrio
Robyn Frank’s email pinged with a new message. At first she couldn’t believe what it said, so she re-read the note. It came from Dr. Erica Coleman, chief of staff at Bethesda Hospital, a Saint Paul, Minnesota-based health care facility dedicated to fighting COVID-19. Her heartfelt message was about feeding nourishing snacks to her hardworking staff at the hospital. Dr. Coleman saw it as an opportunity to support small businesses and provide gratitude in bite size form for critical health care workers who could not grocery shop during the current pandemic. Robyn, owner and founder of Thumbs Cookies, was taken back by the generosity of the message, and called Dr. Coleman.
“I was so touched she was taking the time to support her team during this pandemic. And on top of it all she wanted to support small businesses,” Robyn said. She held back tears during the phone call with the doctor.
Robyn was determined to find a solution to provide snacks for health care workers, while still generating enough sales to sustain her business. She connected with friends in the foodie community and learned that multiple brands had been contacted by Dr. Coleman with the same ask. One of them was Tasya Kelen, owner and founder of Isadore Nut Co.
“When Dr. Erica emailed me, it was the highlight of my week. It was the perfect idea—feed and support frontline workers while still supporting small businesses that are struggling,” said Tasya.
Tasya is right. Thriving small businesses’ sales have been drying up due to the health crisis. Stores have closed and online sales have stalled. Not to mention most of these companies have inventory with an expiration date on it. Robyn and Tasya rallied the food community to join forces for good and the MN Hero Snack Pack was born.
Robyn took the lead and launched the MN Snack Pack on her website. For a $25 donation, a package of tasty snacks is delivered to a busy hospital worker to eat on the go. So far, 15 local companies are participating. The brands are a mix of sweet treats like cookies from Kakookie and marshmallows from North Mallow to savory snacks like Ommie energy bars and granola from Coco, Bee & Nut.
Since the launch of the MN Hero Snack Pack the first week of April, they have fed more than 3,600 health care workers.
“The community is stepping up in ways we haven’t seen before. Brands are showing up with no expectation in return. I know this is a dark time for so many of us, but there is extreme generosity happening. This is a great example of collaboration over competition. We’re showing our love through food,” said Robyn.
How you can support the MN Hero Snack Pack:
- Donate a MN Hero Snack Pack
- Refer a medical center in need of snacks (send all inquiries to Leann at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Spread the word!
- Support the brands that are donating product
Brands featured in the MN Snack Pack:
- CARE-amels are delicious and sweet caramels made by Jill Howard, who is on a mission to help care for others. Instagram.com/ColorMeJill
- Coco, Bee & Nut is a grain-based cereal company offering products that promote healthy whole food living; founded by Kathryn Nelson. CocoBeeAndNut.com
- Flackers organic crackers are a nutritious snack made with flaxseed, one of founder Dr. Allison Levitt’s favorite healthy ingredients. Flackers.com
- Gustola Granola is a delicious snack for those in need of a burst of energy and for anyone on the go; founded by Angela Gustafson. GustolaGranola.com
- Hacienda San Jose is an Ecuadorian chocolate company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota that supports communities in Los Rios, Ecuador and San Jose, Costa Rica. ChocolateSanJose-Minneapolis.com
- Isadore Nut Co. features organic and premium nuts, roasted by hand in small batches by people passionate about artisan products; founded by Tasya Kelen. IsadoreNutCo.com
- Kakookies are cookies re-imagined, inspired by founder Sue Kakuk’s desire for a nutritious snack for herself and her cycling team. Kakookies.com
- Maddy & Maize is a gourmet popcorn company offering a variety of unique flavors like bourbon barbeque and raspberry lemonade. MaddyAndMaize.com
- Mademoiselle Meil offers award-winning chocolates and truffles, handmade in Saint Paul, Minnesota. MademoiselleMeil.com
- North Mallow marshmallows were created by camp counselors with simple, real ingredients that are free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives; founded by Mike and Christine Nelson. NorthMallow.com
- Northstar Kombucha is a fermented blend of teas, fruits, herbs and spices, made in Minneapolis, Minnesota; founded by husband and wife Dan and Christina Fischer. NorthstarKombucha.com
- Ommie Snacks offers allergy-friendly vegan nut bars that taste delicious and are free of junk; founded by Claudia Fieroo-Poppen. OmmieSnacks.com
- Thumbs Cookies is a Minnesota-based cookie company that celebrates love and family history with tiny cookies; founded by Robyn Frank. ThumbsCookies.com
- You Betcha! Kimchi is a Minnesota twist on a Korean classic featuring three bold flavors; founded by Iman Mefleh and Joe Silberschmidt. YouBetchaKimchi.com
- ZoZo’s Sweet Treats offers a variety of handmade treats from Rice Krispie bars to cookies and pies, all made in Minnesota. Instagram.com/ZoZosSweetTreats
About the author: Jordyn DiOrio is a designer with a passion for business who believes in empowering those around her. She founded her successful company, MEND Jewelry, in 2017. Her natural abilities to connect and collaborate led her to My Founder Story, where she focuses on elevating the organization’s community of female founders.