The City of Bloomington reduces barriers to energy savings for food shelf shoppers

November 2023

In 2021, the City of Bloomington had conversations with residents around access to energy savings. Based on their responses, the city took action. 

People gathering in a conference room with tablesA line of families enter Bloomington's Cedar Valley Church for a community event. Tonight, families have gathered to attend their local food shelf - and for something a little extra. Emma Struss, the City of Bloomington’s sustainability coordinator, welcomes everyone into the space and gives an introduction to the evening. Her message is then repeated by translators in ASL, Spanish, and Russian. 

She shares that in addition to the regular food shelf hosted by Good in the ‘Hood, the City of Bloomington invites the community to share in the hot meal that they had sponsored for the evening. Plus, a number of organizations are on hand with resources related to energy savings and community health. This means that while attendees wait for their turn to shop for groceries, they’re also invited to sit down for a meal and connect with the various community organizations, all in the same space. And, as Emma announces last, this is just the first of three similar events the city is planning to host at this food shelf. 

The community speaks out

During the pandemic, the City of Bloomington regularly hosted their “Let’s talk Bloomington” program, a place where locals could engage in conversation with city staff on topics that matter to them. In early 2021, the city focused a few sessions on conversations about transportation access and energy savings. The city specifically wanted to hear from people who historically have struggled with paying their energy bills. 

Through these conversations, the city learned a lot. Officials found out that many residents were unaware of the energy savings programs they were qualified for, and that people were also experiencing barriers in accessing the programs. The City of Bloomington decided it was time to connect more closely with the community to help overcome these issues. Thus, the city applied for a CERTs Seed Grant to host three neighborhood resource events! 

“In my role as the city sustainability coordinator, my job is to really work towards our climate goals. But the city has many values. Equity and inclusion, and health are also important priorities in Bloomington. So what’s really special about [this project] is that it touches upon many things. Not only is saving energy beneficial for the environment, but it’s also saving money at home, and it’s allowing people to improve indoor air quality — which has many positive effects.”

Emma Struss, City of Bloomington sustainability coordinator

For these events, Bloomington teamed up with Cedar Valley Church. The church has a well-established food shelf operated by Good in the ‘Hood. Plus, the neighborhood is home to many of the specific residents that the city hoped to reach. To bring energy and accessibility to the events, several local energy outreach organizations were invited to table and share information, as well as local Spanish, Russian, and ASL interpreters to help remove any language barriers. 

The City of Bloomington worked hard to spread the word! Word of mouth invites were extended at city parks and carried through the networks that public health staff and property managers had. Plus, flyers about the event were sent in the mail and posted on social media channels. 

Sign up for our email newsletter

A feast of food and resources

The outreach paid off — approximately 150 guests attended each event! They were able to interact with organizations like CenterPoint Energy, Xcel Energy, Home Energy Squad, Community Action Plan Partnership of Hennepin County, Sustainable Resource Center, Minnesota Department of Health’s Asthma Division, and Citizens Utility Board. These resource organizations helped residents schedule home energy audits, provided one-on-one application support for energy assistance and weatherization programs, and led utility bill consultations. CERTs was also at the events, meeting with the community and talking about clean energy.

“It can be really confusing to navigate all the systems and programs that exist around energy. So the idea was to have all the program providers for the city come to one place.”

Emma Struss, City of Bloomington sustainability coordinator


It’s just the beginning for Bloomington

The City of Bloomington learned that building relationships with existing community services was a good strategy for raising awareness and participation in energy programs. To promote future successful events like these, the City of Bloomington hired a sustainability specialist. This person is continuing to organize energy workshops for underserved audiences and helping to expand the city’s residential energy efficiency and affordability programming for the future. 


Clean Energy Focus: Energy resource nights held at the same time as a food shelf

Metro CERT Seed Grant: $4,775

Other Funds Leveraged: in-kind contributions by partners (church and food shelf organization)

People Involved and Reached: 506



We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.