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Food shelf drive under way

Food shelf volunteers, from left, Claire Evink and Shirley and Emmett Lingle are among the 90 individuals who assist monthly. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Tim and Max, 4, Juntunen were among the guests arriving for NorthStar Orthodontics' fourth annual luncheon fundraiser for the food shelf, the event contributing about $1,000 each year. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

The clock is ticking for the Hubbard County Food Shelf food and fund-raising drive, ending April 7.

Meanwhile, need continues to grow.

Food shelf coordinator Dave Long reports "business was up" 40 percent in February, compared with the same period in 2011.

Last year, 12,486 individuals were served, a 48 percent increase over the year before, with larger families commonplace.

Family visits were up 23 percent, the majority of the 3,697 families referred by Mahube. "We're seeing larger families," Long said of blended and multi-generational families.

"We don't ask questions," Long said of the clients arriving with vouchers, now eligible to receive goods once a month.

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.

Twenty-eight percent of those served arrived from outside the city in 2011. Residents came from Akeley (234), Nevis (214), Menahga (197), Laporte (195) and other area towns.

The food shelf makes a weekly delivery to Ponsford.

The amount spent for food distributed through the food shelf last year was up 71 percent from 2010. Total pounds distributed to needy families and individuals were up 45 percent. In 2011, the Hubbard County Food Shelf gave out 263.3 tons of food.

And while needs rose, food poundage from the USDA decreased. Last year's federal funding was down approximately $10,000 from the previous year. "We're not planning on any funding this year," Long said.

The drive runs through Friday, April 7. 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, 34,000 pounds of food and $60,000 were donated during the Hubbard County Food Shelf drive. (A pound of food is equivalent to $1 for grant purposes.)

So far, in the first two full weeks of the drive, 13,000 pounds of food have been donated and $17,000 in cash. "We have quite a ways to go," Long said. But he's not biting his knuckles.

Food shelf benefactors - churches, businesses and other organizations - generally like to take it to the finish line, assuring all possible donations have been received.

St. Peter's has been the most generous to date, contributing more than 1,700 pounds of food and $500 - with the final monetary donations yet to come.

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 115 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.

Volunteers have come forward - both in number and talent - to aid in the service, he said.

Similarly, donations have been steady, 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.