On a sunny day in Minneapolis recently, a homeless man, tired and disheveled, walked through the doors of 1800 Triage, a health and wellness center for individuals and families bogged down in the mire of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, chemical abuse and mental health issues. The center is a collaboration between several organizations, including MATTER’s partner Avivo, a non-profit on mission to transform lives by providing a full spectrum of chemical and mental health services, career education, and employment services.

Avivo’s Program Director, Karvee Kawalawu, sat down with the desperate man to assess his needs. Having gone for several days without his medication, he was barely coherent. Undaunted, Karvee continued to talk with him and soon discovered he hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. Quickly, Karvee reached for a MATTERbox snack pack and handed it to the man who eagerly ripped the bag apart, tossing everything but the food into the trash. After consuming two snack packs, his disposition began to change and his speech became more clear. Karvee described what happened next.

“Within about 5-10 minutes, he felt so much better and then went back to the trash, dug out the goal card and asked, “Can we talk about this now?” I was able to have a great conversation with him about health once his stomach was full.”

Created as tools to spark dialogue about nutrition and help activate healthy eating, MATTERbox meal kits and snack packs are used in a variety of settings, helping both adults and children take their first steps toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits.

Karvee Kuwalawu, Program Director at Avivo.

With community partners like Avivo, MATTERbox is used mainly as a way to engage individuals, most of whom are hungry and in need of food before they are able to discuss other health needs. Karvee explained how the snack packs are instrumental in opening doors of conversation with clients.

“I use the snack packs as a conversation starter. It can be so hard to gauge where people are at when they come in. I want them to be able to understand my presence, feel comfortable with me before I start asking any questions. The snack packs provide them with the food they need, but then we talk about the goal card and it starts the conversation and opens the door for me to encourage them to think about what goals they’d like to set for themselves in other areas as well.”

Most of the people that come through the doors of 1800 Triage are in need of nourishment for their spirits as well as their bodies, and the YOU MATTER notes of encouragement are small gestures that can make a great impact on them. As one staff member explained,

“A lot of times, when you’ve got someone who’s going through a tough time in life or who doesn’t get a lot of positive feedback, to have these little notes of affirmation means a lot. We want people to know who they are. They’re masterpieces!”

We couldn’t agree more. At MATTER, we believe everyone matters and deserves the chance to have access to a healthier life and we know healthy food creates conversations. We also believe you don’t have to be a charity to change the world. By providing MATTERbox meal kits and snack packs to individuals and families in our communities, we help to create healthier and more hopeful futures. Please join us in this world-changing mission!