Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and the Vikings Table distributed free healthy meals to local youth this week.
INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. – Before Dalvin Cook laced up his cleats for Sunday's win over the Falcons, he donned an apron and got to work in the community.
Nicknamed "The Chef," Cook has partnered with Vikings Table, a custom-built food truck that serves free, healthy meals to youth across the Twin Cities community on behalf of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation.
Last Tuesday, the running back stepped inside the truck and served meals to a community less than four miles from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. Cook pointed out the "hidden" nature of the tucked-away neighborhood a short drive from where he practices, and he said that providing food for underprivileged families hits close to home.
"To help some of these families get meals for their children and their families, it's a great opportunity for me to show where I came from and show that I'm real serious about this thing," Cook said.
The Vikings joined efforts with local nonprofit The Open Door, which has been setting up a weekly fresh produce giveaway in the community for three years. The Open Door Executive Director Jason Viana said he appreciated the intentional and strategic partnership.
"For an organization of our size, it would be very easy for the Vikings to come in and squish us, to do what they wanted to do," said Viana. "But I feel like both [Executive Director of Social Impact] Brett [Taber] and [Foundation Programs Coordinator] Monterae [Carter] have taken such remarkable steps to be considerate of that, even to the point of, 'How do we promote this?' to ensure that it is just for the folks in this community.
"They wanted to complement the work that we were already doing, and I think they've done a really, really good job of making sure that was the case," Viana said.
He explained that The Open Door produce stands are designed to make fresh and healthy food available and accessible for isolated areas. Many of the low-income residents of the targeted areas do not have a means of transportation, and there are no grocery stores located nearby.
"We bring anywhere from 8,000-10,000 pounds of farm-fresh produce every week and make it available to anyone in this community who needs it," Viana said. "We average 100-120 households a week that come here to get their fresh produce."
After families picked up their produce, they were able to stop by the food truck for tacos and fruit and, of course, a photograph with Cook.
The running back was joined at the distribution window by Cooper Manning, the older brother of Peyton and Eli, who hosted a feature for FOX NFL Kickoff. Cook said he was grateful to FOX for capturing who he is off of the field.
He referenced a mother and daughter who approached Cook and appreciated the opportunity to personally meet him.
"[She said], 'We don't know you guys because you always have helmets on,' " Cook relayed. "They don't really get to see who we are under the helmet. Events like this, just getting out and interacting with the people, it can kind of show a different side."