Who could have possibly known that beer, in addition to being delicious, could be a force for good in the world?
For Jacquie Berglund, co-founder of Minnesota’s Finnegans Brew Co., beer has been the primary way that she has been able to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to those in need of healthy, nutritious food.
For about 20 years, Finnegans has been driven by a simple mission: “Drink local, give local.”
By giving 100 percent of its profit back to the community in the form of fresh produce, Finnegans has become a leader among businesses in the Midwest seeking to make a difference through social entrepreneurship.
The brewery is also the first in the world to donate the entirety of its profits back into the community through charitable initiatives designed to “turn beer into food.”
Finnegans has a “reverse food truck” that exchanges samples of beer for fresh food and monetary donations, with a fleet of six trucks traveling across the country, fueling donations to local food banks.
Through the nonprofit Finnegans Community Fund—originally named Spud Society—Berglund has been able to devise an innovative model that is both sustainable in terms of marketability and effective in terms of addressing the problem of food access and food security in the U.S. Midwest—problems that programs like SNAP and WIC have struggled to address amid budget cuts and rising food prices.
Berglund explained that while she came from a middle-class background, her good fortune was really only a matter of luck while too many others across the region have struggled with generational poverty.
“I understand the condition of the working poor … If I were born into that situation now, I would have had a very different life.
I’m a basic needs gal … We live in the wealthiest country in the world. It’s a crime that people can’t meet their basic needs.”
Hoping to address the problem, Finnegans has partnered with food banks in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The company is fast approaching two million dollars of impact—which is equivalent to roughly two million pounds of organic food given to families in need.
Berglund noted that her satisfaction comes not only from brewing a good beer, but from successfully making her contribution to the fight against malnutrition and food insecurity. Berglund said:
“I always wanted to leave the world a better place. I’m just hardwired that way.”