Meteorological spring kicked in Friday, as did the Hubbard County Food Shelf food- and fundraising drive.
Temperatures and food shelf usage are on the rise.
Food shelf coordinator Dave Long reports total pounds of food distributed in 2012 were up 10 percent. And 4,172 family visits were made to the food shelf, up 13 percent from the previous year.
Last year, 14,056 individuals were served, a 13 percent increase over the year before.
"We're seeing larger families," Long said of blended and multi-generational families.
The food shelf was doing banner business this week, 20 families arriving Tuesday alone.
"Our budget just doesn't stretch far enough," a client said of her household of four children.
Another cited changes in employment. She was forced to move from full-time to part-time and her husband had been laid off. He found a job, but at a lower salary.
"Social Security isn't enough to buy the food I need," a senior said. "It's a blessing, what the stores give," she said of Park Rapids markets.
The Hubbard County Food Shelf is larger than most in the city the size of Park Rapids. That's due to the food shelf serving a larger geographical area.
Thirty percent of those served arrived from outside the city in 2012. Residents come from Akeley, Nevis, Menahga, Laporte and other area towns.
The food shelf makes a weekly delivery to Ponsford.
Total pounds distributed to needy families and individuals were up 9.5 percent last year. In 2012, the Hubbard County Food Shelf gave out 288 tons of food.
Minnesota FoodShare reported people in Minnesota visited food shelves more than three million times. Visits to food shelves have increased 164 percent over the past decade.
The three main programs to address hunger in Minnesota - food support, food shelves and subsidized school lunches - all hit record levels in 2012, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Children are the fastest growing population of SNAP-eligible participants in the state, the Department of Human Services reports of the Supplemental
The food shelf drive runs through Friday, April 5. The donations at the conclusion will determine the amount the food shelf will receive through Minnesota FoodShare.
Donations through April 30 are the basis for grant funding from the Alan Shawn Feinstein Foundation - $1 million will be divided proportionately among qualifying agencies.
Last year, 30,000 pounds of food and $66,000 were donated during the Hubbard County Food Shelf drive. (A pound of food is equivalent to $1 for grant purposes.)
Walmart is the biggest donator of food with Coborn's adding more food to Hubbard's cupboard than in the past.
Checks to the Hubbard County Food Shelf may be mailed to 308 Pleasant Ave., Park Rapids, MN 56470.
Food drop-off locations in March and April include churches, banks, schools and grocery stores.
Preferred donations include:
n Canned - fruit, tomatoes, stew, vegetables, soup, meats, kidney beans, pork and beans and fruit juice.
n Other - Hamburger Helper, Jello or pudding, hot cereal, instant potatoes, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, pasta, Bisquick, cake mix, rice, powdered milk, sugar, crackers, pancake syrup, cookies and jelly.
n Non-food items - bar soap, toilet tissue, toothpaste and shampoo.
Donation of dry cereal is discouraged because it's significantly less expensive at the food bank in Crookston.
The food shelf is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Hubbard County Food Shelf is an all-volunteer enterprise. Ninety people now arrive on a regular basis to assist. None of the money collected is used for salaries. A percentage is used for heat, electricity, insurance and water and sewer. No real estate taxes are assessed.
Akeley-Nevis food shelf
The Akeley-Nevis Food Shelf is mirroring the Park Rapids site. Usage is up and continues to grow.
Last year, the food shelf served 128 families, with approximately 1,000 to 1,800 pounds of goods distributed each week, according to George Lueck who spearheads the distribution site. Family size appears to be on the increase, he said.
No questions are asked of clients.
"They prefer not to be here," he said. But circumstances make it necessary. "They need to feed the kids."
Vouchers are not required but clients are asked to bring proof of residency, a utility bill, for example. Clients are asked to limit visits to twice a month, unless circumstances deem more are necessary.
The food shelf at the ARCC can be accessed on the southwest side of the building, the gym door. Signs will be posted inside. The distribution site is open from 9 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and for emergencies.
Volunteers always welcome.
Donations have been steady, Lueck reports and the food shelf remaining solvent.
Monetary and food donations are welcome. Checks can be made to the Akeley Community Food Shelf and sent c/o George Lueck to 31510 County 23, Akeley, MN 56433 or dropped off at the ARCC.