Keystone Community Service eyes new food center

By Susan Triemert

The Keystone Community Service’s new Opening Doors to Food Security campaign hopes to raise $8.5 million for a new community food center that tentatively would open in the fall of 2023.

The nonprofit Keystone purchased a 20,000 square-foot site at 1800 University Ave. W. in 2020 with plans to offer food, household essentials and crisis services to Ramsey County residents.

 Keystone CEO Mary McKeown said the goal of the food center fundraiser for St. Paul’s Midway area is “bringing more food to more tables.” So far, it has raised. $3.9 million.

Founded over 80 years ago, Keystone continues to achieve what a group of its founding members had once hoped: To connect community members and offer services to those in need.

To that end, Keystone operates two food shelves and mobile foodshelf trucks that travel to over 30 locations a month.

However, Keystone is unable to meet all of the community’s needs because the nonprofit is now serving more than double the number of households compared with the same time a year ago. Space at Keystone’s current food shelves is limited.

“Rising food costs, gas prices, and overall inflation have contributed to the rise in use,” McKeown said.

Keystone has paired with Second Harvest as a food supply source, and according to McKeown, they could not be successful without this affiliation. Second Harvest is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks.

Built in 1917, one half of the Keystone’s planned new food shelf site was once a Model T Ford dealership and later an auto garage. The other half, built in 1923, was a furniture store.

Keystone has been working with 4RM-ULA Architects to design the new food center. Once finished, the site will offer, among other things, storage for five food trucks, freezer and refrigerated spaces for food storage, easy access for donations, high ceilings for more donated food and household items, basement storage for bicycles donated for the nearby Express Bike Shop — a teen run bike store that Keystone also operates — and more room for volunteers.

Based on survey information from more than 400 community members, the new Keystone Community Food Center will offer a bright and colorful store-front, a parking lot, an indoor lobby, a reception desk and room for up to 50 volunteers at a time, much greater space than the 5-person volunteer limit at its current locations.

Keystone is also adding a community room that may be used to offer its visitors other services, such as tax assistance. The room could also serve more social needs and host caregiver support groups or activities for older adults.

Keystone has many major contributors, but is still looking to raise more funds for its new center. For more information about the food site visit The website explains Keystone’s mission, services and how to donate time or money to the organization. 

Susan Triemert lives in the Como Park neighborhood and is a Bugle freelance writer.

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