Tuesday marked the 7th year of the Vikings teaming up with Second Harvest Heartland and UnitedHealthcare. The volunteer food-packing event focuses on resolving hunger issues in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. –In his first visit to Second Harvest Heartland, Laquon Treadwell didn't hesitate to don a hairnet and gloves and get to work in a warehouse assembly line.
Beneath the thin mesh of a beard net, the second-year receiver flashed the same smile evident behind his facemask on the football field. Treadwell was new to the Twin Cities program but isn't a stranger to helping pack food for the community.
"My mentor (Torian Moore) used to take me out and have me do food drives on Christmas and Thanksgiving," Treadwell said. "I'm used to doing things like this, so I'm just looking forward to doing more and being around my teammates, enjoying these moments."
Treadwell said his experiences serving in the Chicago community with Moore made a lasting impact on him.
"I didn't have much. I was less fortunate, but just to be able to give back [was rewarding]," Treadwell said. "And now I have more than I could ever imagine in that aspect of food and different resources the NFL provides. Just being able to help and inspire youth … and let them know that they do have help.
"I was one of those kids who got help from many people, and it helped me get to where I am today," he added. "So you can always give back and be grateful for what you have."
After joining the Vikings as a first-round draft pick in 2016, Treadwell is excited to spend more time getting involved in his new home this season.
"I've grasped the football aspect. I feel like I'm where I need to be in that aspect, so I just feel like it's time to give out more energy from myself, give to the community and do more," Treadwell said.
Rice, rice, baby.
Tuesday marked the seventh annual year of the Minnesota Vikings teaming up with Second Harvest Heartland and UnitedHealthcare. The volunteer food-packing event focuses on resolving hunger issues in the Twin Cities community and throughout the state of Minnesota.
Treadwell, Eric Kendricks, Kyle Carter and Bronson Hill were on hand Tuesday afternoon with UnitedHealthcare employees to pack rice into boxes that will be distributed along with other food items to families who are experiencing hunger insecurity.
A second group also packed earlier in the day and included Vikings Legends Dave Osborn and Tyrone Carter as well as Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders. Together, the two groups packed 12,480 pounds of rice, which will help provide 10,400 meals for hungry citizens.
Kendricks returned to the event for a second consecutive year.
The linebacker knew when starting in the NFL that he wanted to commit to a specific cause, and he's worked closely with hunger-relief programs to tackle hunger in the community.
Like Treadwell, Kendricks shared experiences of receiving support when he was younger.
"It was just me, my brother, my sister and my mom, and it was hard at times," Kendricks said. "But whether it was through other family members or through the community, we received lots of help, leadership and guidance from teachers and coaches and things like that. And I just think it's important to give back."
Kendricks enjoyed his second packing event and is excited also for his second **“Sacks for Kids” campaign** in partnership with the Sheridan Story, an agency partner of Second Harvest Heartland.
"Everyone has helped me give back," Kendrick said. "I wouldn't know where to start, and programs like [Second Harvest Heartland] and others that I've worked with have helped be that bridge [to the community]."
Heather Olson, Director of Corporate Memberships and Cause Marketing for Second Harvest Heartland, emphasized appreciation for Kendricks' support.
"He brings a lot of light and attention to the work that we're doing," said Olson, who explained that one in every 10 Minnesotans experiences hunger.
"It's really important that we make sure that we can provide the meals they need, when they need them, through the support of our food shelf and other agency partners," Olson said. "There certainly is a need worldwide, but at Second Harvest Heartland, we're focused on the local issues and how we can support the neighbors in our backyard."
UnitedHealthcare Social Responsibility Program Manager Courtney Johnson said the annual event is one the organization's employees look forward to every year.
"It's always fun to see so many of our folks in one place, taking a few hours away from work to volunteer and serve in our community. It's a really energizing atmosphere," Johnson said. "We focus on this initiative on senior hunger specifically because it's an area and a demographic that's perhaps a little bit more overlooked when you think of those who are hungry and those who are experiencing food insecurity in the Twin Cities and entire state of Minnesota. So being able to partner with the Vikings and being able to bring that name recognition to this is tremendous."
Treadwell is looking forward to connecting with Moore and said he won't be surprised if he gets a text from his mentor after hearing about Tuesday's event.
"He was at the game last week and had fun, and he just said I have to get back to what I was doing as a kid," said Treadwell.
He referred to Moore as a "father-figure, friend, teacher" who has always supported him.
"Growing up in Chicago, a lot of rough times, and you need guidance," Treadwell said. "I was one of the kids who wanted guidance, wanted wisdom, wanted to learn how to be better and how to do better.
"He was one of the people that helped me, and several other coaches in the Chicago area," Treadwell added. "The list goes on and on of who helped me to get here, [and now] it's just my turn to step up and help."
Join the team
More than 68,000 senior citizens in Minnesota face hunger every day. That's enough people to fill U.S. Bank Stadium, leaving nearly 2,000 without a seat.
Vikings fans will have an opportunity to team up with the Vikings and UnitedHealthcare prior to the Lions game on Sunday. From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., volunteers will collect cash and credit donations in and around The Commons area (located west of Medtronic Plaza).
Fans are also encouraged to help fight hunger in the heartland, particularly senior hunger, by donating online at **2harvest.org/vikingsdrive** through the end of October.
For more information on Second Harvest Heartland, visit **2harvest.org**.