Turkeys & hams at the ECHO Food Shelf. File photo

MANKATO — Mankato’s Wal-Mart distribution center was the biggest food donor for the Twin Cities-based Second Harvest Heartland food shelf last year.

The nonprofit recently named the distribution center as one of six “hunger heroes” making an impact in countering hunger.

Food from the Mankato Wal-Mart operation doesn’t stay in the Twin Cities once it’s trucked there. Mark Carlson, manager at the distribution center, said Second Harvest distributes the food it receives back to food shelves, including those in the Mankato area.

ECHO Food Shelf, The Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Service, The Reach and Campus Cupboard are among the organizations to receive produce, meats, dairy, deli or freezer items from the distribution center, Carlson said.

“It’s neat seeing the good that it does in our area,” he said. “Instead of going to a landfill, they go to a good cause to people who need the service.”

Wal-Mart trucks food, mainly produce, to Second Harvest about four to five times per week. The food donated is deemed still usable despite not being suitable for retail sales. Second Harvest estimates these donations from Mankato’s Wal-Mart add up to 4.6 million meals.

Heather Olson, Second Harvest Heartland’s director of corporate partnerships, said the meal calculation is based on USDA’s definition of 1.2 pounds of food equaling one meal. To have fresh food to go along with nonperishable donations is a major help for food shelves, she said.

“To be able to receive that kind of food donated to us and distribute it to our agency partners, that’s a huge win,” she said.

Second Harvest will honor the distribution center and five other organizations March 30 in a recognition event. Carlson said he was informed of the award recently, and said the Second Harvest partnership has been strong since the center opened in Mankato in September 2015.

“We’ve developed a really good relationships with that team, and they’re very happy to have us,” he said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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