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Food shelf donations are down while use continues to rise

Anita Gruel expressed gratitude for her basket of food, including the popcorn. Her son, she said, is diabetic. "This is sure a blessing." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The mid-point of the annual Hubbard County Food Shelf drive found donations down from '09, but food shelf director Dave Long remains optimistic.

Last year at this time, the food shelf received a $10,000 estate bequest and $25,000 in stimulus money.

But the community is rising to the occasion. "Donations are good," Long said. "I do not anticipate deficit spending."

St. Peter's youth-driven initiative has brought in $1,700 in cash, 1,300 pounds to date.

Trinity, Riverside and Hubbard United Methodist churches have each raised approximately $1,000 for the cause.

The Chili Challenge, coordinated by the Enterprise, added approximately $5,000 to the food shelf coffers.

NorthStar continues its tradition of food shelf fundraising again this year. A pie and ice cream social will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the orthodontics firm's headquarters.

Last year, $98,000 in dollars and food combined were donated during the drive; so far, $50,000 has arrived.

Meanwhile, the food shelf is doing banner business. Monday, 15 families and individuals arrived, with 11 coming in Tuesday. Last Friday, a family of 11 requested assistance.

"We're seeing more senior citizens," Long said, a change from a few years ago when seniors asking for assistance was a rarity.

"This is sure a blessing," food shelf client Anita Gruel, 63, said of the food shelf, her first request for assistance.

Gruel arrived with two of her three sons last fall from Missouri, her house there yet to sell. She and her sons took up residence at a family cabin near Osage. One of her sons is disabled, suffering multiple health problems. "My husband left us when my youngest was 9.

"I've always wanted to come," she said of taking up residence in the four-generation family cabin. "I love this area." But the non-insulated cabin made for a long winter.

Gruel remains optimistic, however. She and her sons are "swapping help" with neighbors to make ends meet. One of those neighbors suggested she pay a call on the food shelf.

"Once we get on our feet, we'll be fine," Gruel said.

"This helps out a lot," said a single mom of two, ages 10 and 12, both with medical needs. She was recently turned down for a HUD loan after the house she'd been living in via contract for deed was deemed beyond repair. They moved out a month ago.

Her hours with a nursing service were cut after her primary client moved to a nursing home.

"The people here are so nice. They cater to the individual family," she said of product selection.

The drive runs through April 9, the amount contributed is the basis for Minnesota FoodShare funding.

Checks to the Hubbard County Food Shelf may be mailed to Dave Long at 15701 Essex Rd., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Food drop-off locations in March and April include churches, banks, schools, grocery stores, the hospital and Innovis Health.

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.

The food shelf is located at 706 East 3rd St. It's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Hubbard County Food Shelf is an all-volunteer enterprise. None of the money collected is used for salaries. A small percentage is used for heat, light and insurance. Water and sewer are donated by the city and no real estate taxes are assessed.