One third of the people who live in the city of Duluth are living in poverty or are considered to be working poor. Community Action Duluth is doing whatever it takes to help people who are struggling to cover basic needs.

What's New at Community Action?

Jodi Pfarr Event September 9, 2017

Effectively Living & Working in a Diverse World

Providing the toolbox to build a bridge between communities
Family Freedom Center and Race Awareness Workshop are excited to bring back the talented Jodi Pfarr to provide training to the Duluth community on the intersections of Race, Poverty, and Class


Saturday September 9th, 2017
8:30 am to 4:30 PM
Cost to attend $45
Community Action Duluth
Lower-level cafeteria
2424 W 5th St
Includes continental breakfast, lunch and training materials. Childcare is available upon request .

To Register:

Click here to register
218-726-1665 ex 232

Click here for details.

Digital Literacy Classes Available

Click here for more information.

Click here for Family Night Out PDFFree Family Night Out

Click here for flyer.

Fun with Food! Let's make cooking with kids fun and healthy! Enjoy mini lessons, hands on activities, sensory experiences, tasting new foods and making new things!

From June to September, instead of taking a summer break, our staff are planning fun activities, demonstrations and more to make food fun, interesting and accessible to you and your kiddo!

June 8, 2017
Snacks! Happy Belly = Happy Kids!

July 13, 2017
Breakfast! So Easy to Get Started Right!

August 10, 2017
Eat a Rainbow with Fruits and Veggie!

September 14, 2017
Dinner + Dessert

With Inge Maskun, Health Coach and Shirdell Mattox-Simmons, Community Health Worker

Return on Investment Report

Return On Investment CoverClick here to view the full report.
Click here to view the condensed report.

This study investigates the return on investment (ROI) of various programs operated by Community Action Duluth (CAD). Findings consistently demonstrate positive value for participants, funders, taxpayers and society as a whole. Using conservative estimates throughout, cost-benefit ratios result in returns of between $2.14 and $33.10 for every dollar invested in a program, with an average return of $14.45 after one year. Five year projections show returns ranging from $8.68 to $165.48 for every dollar invested.

Research findings, presented from a compilation of CAD FY 2013 budgets paired with national, regional and community-based data, provide a clear indication of the effectiveness of CAD programs. This correlates well with ROI research findings nation-wide. Benefits not only profit individuals and families directly participating in the program itself but the broader community, by increasing the tax base and stabilizing or often expansively increasing economic stability. Benefits not only are substantial over time but impressive in the short term as well.

Although it has been argued that social programs are expensive to operate and their results intangible, we believe they are a powerful and compelling investment where benefits multiply over time. We believe investing now will save higher costs later and we believe that all people have the ability to prosper with the right opportunities and the right support. We're here to provide both.

Based on this study and the existing nationwide body of literature on ROIs, we strongly encourage continued and increased financial support for the programs cited in this study as well as similar initiatives nationwide. Our research clearly suggests that benefits from CAD programs extend far beyond a participant's time with us and far beyond the individual participating.

SNAP Asssistance at the Library

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps or Food Support, can help you supplement your food-buying budget. Income limits for eligibility are higher than you might think: $1580/month for a single person, $2,133/month for a two person household, or $3239/ for a family of four.

SNAP logoApplication assistance is available in the top floor of the Main Library (520 W. Superior Street, Duluth) on Mondays from 1:00-4:00. The assistance is free and no appointment is needed. Please bring the following things with you to apply:

  • ID of any/all applicant(s)
  • Documentation of gross income
  • Proof of housing cost (rent/mortgage)
  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses more than $35 for people 60+ or disabled.

Because SNAP eligibility is different in each state, application assistance is only available for Minnesota residents. You can learn more about all our benefits outreach services here.

MNSure Still An Option for Many Minnesotans

MNsure LogoWhile MNsure open enrollment is over until November 2014, it’s not too late for many people to access an affordable health insurance option through the site. Qualified Health Plans (QHPs, the term for private health plans offered through MNSure) are open to all people who have experienced a Qualifying Life Event, like losing or changing jobs, getting married or divorced, having a baby, moving into the state, or gaining citizenship. In addition, Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare (MNCare) remain open to qualified consumers. Eligibility for these public health care programs depends on income and household size. The maximum qualifying gross (pre-tax) income for a household of one adult is $22,980. Adults in a family of four is can qualify with income up to $47,100, and the income limits are higher for children’s coverage. These public health care programs are free or very low-cost and cover doctor/clinic visits, emergency room care, eyeglasses, family planning services, hospital services, vaccines, dental care, prescription drugs, and much, much more. Medical Assistance will even cover medical bills up to three months old! Imagine the peace of mind that comes with having health care needs affordably met!

Karen Walter and Megan Halena are certified Navigators at Community Action Duluth who are trained to use MNsure and assist with eligibility screening, application assistance, and follow-up support. All assistance is free of charge. Please call ahead to schedule an appointment. Be prepared to bring the following information to an appointment:

  • Household Income: Project your household income for the 2014 year. A household is everyone who files taxes together. Your best estimate of household’s gross (before taxes) two week, monthly, or annual income from all sources will suffice. Bring last year's Federal 1040 tax form if you have it.
  • Social Security Numbers: You’ll need to enter the Social Security numbers (or document numbers for documented immigrants) for anyone applying for coverage.
  • Employer Coverage Information: Know if your employer (or an employer of your spouse) offers health coverage for you or your family and what the premium cost is to you for individual coverage, even if you don’t accept it.

Karen and Megan are also available to present information about MNsure to groups of any size and/or set up an information table at community events. To request a presentation or set up an appointment, call (218)726-1665 x 33 or 46.

Participant holding chalkboard that says, "My refund means: peace of mind."Get your taxes done for free at CAD

Tax prep resumes on January 28, 2017. By coming to us, you'll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your return will be prepared by IRS-certified volunteers, and you won't pay a cent.

Volunteers are needed for next season! Click here for complete information

Listening to the Solutions

It has long been known that economic deprivation, racism, and isolation are major contributors to poverty. These social issues are compounded by a lack of community relationships called social capital. Many studies note that communities with high levels of social capital are more likely to have higher educational achievement, faster economic growth, and less crime and violence than others. Robert Putnam explored this idea in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone. This reality led Community Action Duluth to create a process of intentional relationship building called Circles of Support. This process is a catalyst that reduces isolation by intentionally engaging people across race and class lines. It helps our community understand the systemic nature of poverty and embrace a spirit of collaboration, generosity, and civic engagement.

Solutions Presentation
Solutions Presentation

Within the Circles of Support community engagement process is a leadership development program called Getting Ahead. Getting Ahead is a solutions-based process designed to help low-income people grow their social capital. On Wednesday, December 4th (5:30-8:00pm) at Myers-Wilkins Elementary School, Getting Ahead participants will host a community forum called "Solutions to End Poverty." Getting Ahead participants will be share their stories about what it is like to navigate the school system as person living in poverty. These stories are sometimes painful, but this candid demonstration of humanity will illuminate the systemic issues of poverty within our schools and in Duluth. After the presentation, we will all take time to talk to each other on a one-to-one basis in hopes of tearing down the walls that divide us.

Our challenge will be to keep people talking, reasoning and working together towards sustainable social change; our collective efforts will generate new ideas, new ways to connect and address the problems that impact us all. We truly hope to see you there! Online registration is appreciated.

CAD to be honored for Financial Advocacy by Lutheran Social Services!

Community Action Duluth will be honored alongside Senator Al Franken, the Tribal Council of the Lower Sioux Indian community, and five others as 2013 recipients of the Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Financial Advocacy Awards. Awardees are “people or organizations that serve to improve economic justice and advocate for people and families in vulnerable financial situations.”

Financial advocacy in action at the Tax Site

We’ve got a great working relationship with LSS; they’re a partner in our JumpStart program. JumpStart helps low-income individuals and families achieve the financial stability they need to purchase reliable, fuel efficient vehicles. Transportation Advocate Heidi St. John works with our partnering lender, Northern Communities Credit Union to make sure that program participants get the best deal possible on their car loans. Beyond JumpStart, advocacy is an important part of all of our financial work: financial coaches help participants work with lenders to clean up personal credit reports, find innovative financial products like the Community Financial Resources prepaid debit card, and make sure that their taxes get done right.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the LSS Center for Changing Lives in Minneapolis on June 13th.

Three Fast Facts on Low Wages in Minnesota

These facts were assembled by the JOBS NOW coalition. Community Action Duluth joins them in calling for the state legislature to set a minimum wage that comes closer to providing low-wage working families with the income they need to get out of poverty.

OPeration GENeration Kicks Off

OPeration GENeration- (OPEN) is new initiative of Circles of Support Community Engagement to increase low-income parent involvement in ISD-709. Parent leaders kicked off OPeration GENeration with a visit to Legislators in St. Paul. Parents arranged visits with legislators (Senator Roger Reinert, Rep. Erik Simonson, Senator Patricia Torres Ray, Rep. Chuck Wiger, Rep Rena Moran, Rep. Carlos Mariani, Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, and Rep Tom Huntley). Parents connected with legislator to advocate for Duluth Public Schools and to inform them about the positive impact of ISD-709’S Integration Specialist System. The primary goal of the visit their visit to St. Paul was to inform State Legislators about their new Parent/ Community pilot process OPeration GENeration.

With Rep. Moran
Pictured left to right- Xavier Bell, Cherise Payton, Daniel Oyinloye, Rep. Rena Moran, Dr. Janet Haynes, with the lean: Samantha Etheride and Lavenda Harkins-Vann

OPeration GENeration will officially start on April 17th at Grant/Nettleton School (5:30-7:30) and will continue every Wednesday evening for 10 week between April 17th – June 19th . The majority of OPeration GENeration Parents have children involved in Duluth Public Schools. Parents have along with Community Allies have designed and plan to implement programming to support other low-income Parent and Kids in Elementary and Middle school. Most of whom work directly with individuals in the ISD-709 Integration Specialist System.

Parents and Community Allies plan work directly with individuals involved in the ISD-709 Integration Specialist system. They plan to focus on 5 specific area of impact:

  1. Find alternative solution to policies that negatively impact their children.
  2. Work to increase volunteer parent involvement in middle and elementary schools.
  3. Support individuals involved in the Integration Specialist system in ISD-709; who are considered by parents to be conduit between teachers, administrators increase communication and who are advocates for their children in Duluth schools.
  4. Provide support to their children; elementary and middle school kids to increase basic math and literacy skills and cultural understanding. Parents plan to also involve parents who have high school age youth to provide peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities.
  5. Work with Health and Human Service officials to address policies that hinder parents who receive MFIP from pursuing continuing education.
With Sen. Reinert
Senator Reinert and Parent Leader Cherise Payton

Low-income parents who would like involved will be asked to serve and assist with programming needs. If you are low-income parent who would like to become a parent leader or if you or your child needs support please sign up to attend the kickoff on April 17th. If you are interested in becoming a Community Ally to help out our Parents. Please contact Cherise Payton or Xavier Bell 218-726-1665, email or Cherise Payton at

Report from February Big View on Health Care

The upcoming changes involving health care was the topic of discussion at the Big View held on Feb. 28th. The Affordable Care Act Act (or what some call ObamaCare) will bring new opportunities for people to get health care coverage, such as an increase in the eligibility level for Medical Assistance, subsidies for people with low and moderate incomes to buy health insurance, and a new on-line system called MNsure to help people purchase health insurance and enroll in public health programs.


Those attending learned about the upcoming changes, shared their experiences with health programs, and voiced opinions on the new ways to get health coverage. Many great ideas were suggested on to how prepare our community for the changes that are coming so people are informed and have accessible places to get help enrolling on MNsure.

Several people posted questions which organizers of the event took the time to respond to. You can find the responses here. Stay tuned for a follow-up session on health care that will be coming in a few months.

Introducing our 2013 Legislative Priorities

Minnesota Capitol

Over the next days and weeks, we'll be exploring our legislative priorities for the current Minnesota legislative session. We identify and advocate on behalf of legislative change because we know that the public policy environment that we live in has a big influence on the ability of people to get out of poverty. The priorities we've identified are the potential legislative changes that we believe could make the most positive impact on the lives of people of low income in Duluth. Our priorities are developed by our board's public policy committee in consultation with participants our community engagement programs and endorsed by the board as a whole.

The legislature is coming back from their Easter recess today, and most of our legislative priorities will be addressed between now and the end of the session. The single best source for keeping track of what the legislature is up to is their very complete website. We have three legislative changes that we endorse and will be actively support, and an additional three that we endorse without offering active support.

The priorities that we endorse and will be working on are:

  1. Restore state funding for the FAIM program
  2. Increase the state minimum wage
  3. Restore the state renter's credit to previous levels

Priorities that we endorse:

  1. Establish no-excuse early voting
  2. Restore the voting rights of felons upon release from incarceration
  3. Fund early childhood vouchers for pre-school education

Stay tuned for links to policy backgrounders on these issues and ways that you can get involved in moving them forward

Starting Seeds with Seeds

Seed Starting Setup

For the first time, Seeds of Success is growing it's own transplants in our office basement. As of today, they have onions (pictured), leeks, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower growing under fluorescent lights.

As these transplants mature and as the weather warms, they'll be moved out to our hoophouse (lightweight unheated greenhouse) in Rice Lake Township at Growing Farms.

Seed Starting Setup

When it's time to put all of these transplants into the ground, we're going to need a lot of help. That's why we're interviewing prospective employees for our first cohort of transitional employees right now.

We're also happy to announce that we'll be selling the fruits of these plants at a new Lincoln Park Farmer's Market at the Harrison Community Center.

If you want to garden at home, starting your own seeds is easy and cheap. One of the best references on how to do this is Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower. Happy spring!

Building Support for FAIM with Rep. Huntley

Pam Johnson from the Minnesota Community Action Partnership joined several members of the CAD board and staff for a meeting with state Rep. Tom Huntley to discuss restoring state funding for the Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) program. This program matches the savings of low and moderate income people as they save money to buy a home, complete their education, or invest in a business. Part of the funding for the program comes from the federal government, but these funds need to be matched by the state monies. State funding for the program was cut in 2011.

CAD has provided the FAIM program since 2003, and dozens of participants have achieved stability because of assets they've built through the program. At our meeting, two past FAIM participants shared the story of their journey to homeownership. MNCAP recently completed an assessment of return on investment from FAIM. It concluded that over 1700 assets have been acquired through the program and that acquiring assets through the program significantly reduced household utilization of public assistance. For example, when a sample of education-track participants was asked about their change in income and utilization in public benefits, researchers estimated that "for every $1.00 spent on FAIM matching fund, $1.57 in government funds was generated or saved in just one year."

Rep. Huntley was very supportive, and in his role as chair of the MN House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, he'll be an important ally in the effort to restore funding to this important asset-building tool.

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Agency Calendar

FREE TAX SITE Open Jan 27-April 17 Mon/Tue/Sat and May 1-Jun 28 Tue/Wed. We prepare 2017 federal and state returns for households and individuals with annual income up to $54,000