Are ballots the third harvest?

A massive Minnesota free-food nonprofit listed a curious job description recently. In late May, Brooklyn Park-based Second Harvest Heartland posted an opening for a “voter engagement coordinator,” a temporary position lasting from June until November.

Second Harvest supports food-shelves operating in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. According to the nonprofit’s most recent tax return, the organization has annual revenue above $260 million, with more than 300 employees.

The organization is big by any measure. In 2021, it ranked 33rd among the state’s nonprofits, ahead of many area colleges, as calculated by the Star Tribune. In 2022, it ranked 2nd among metro-area nonprofits in revenue, according to the MSP Business Journal.

Its CEO is Allison O’Toole, who formerly worked for Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. O’Toole is paid nearly $700,000 a year to run the organization.

Second Harvest’s Director of Public Relations is Zach Rodvold, a registered lobbyist for the organization, who formerly worked for the DFL caucus of the state House of Representatives and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips.

The organization has received tens of millions of dollars from state taxpayers over the past decade. Here are payments from just two state agencies: the MN Dept. of Agriculture and the Department of Human Services (DHS).

The nonprofit has been in the news lately, promoting its summer feeding efforts.. WCCO reports,

New this year is the “Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer” program. According to Gov. Tim Walz’s administration, families who qualify will receive $120 per child to purchase groceries during the summer months. 

The program is expected to feed up to 400,000 kids, or about 30 percent of all the state’s children.

Earlier this year, Second Harvest entered a partnership with political nonprofit ISAIAH to push legislation at the capitol.

Here’s the voter job description as it appears on LinkedIn,

As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity, Second Harvest cannot, strictly speaking, engage in partisan politics. So it must tread a narrow path in its political efforts to keep in compliance, as noted in the job posting’s third bullet, below,

I underlined above the door-to-door part of the work duties. You can register voters, you can educate voters, but when you are face-to-face, it’s tough to avoid the awkward subject of who to vote for, as the ballot itself contains only candidate names and party affiliations, not abstract causes like ending hunger.

Some of the qualifications being sought of job applicants included these two,

For those not familiar, VAN is the primary campaign software use by Democrats. The job description gives the game away. Second Harvest plans to engage voters in carefully “defined geographic areas” populated by certain demographic groups highly likely to vote a straight Democratic (DFL) ticket.

Your tax dollars at work!