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Food shelf asks residents to 'open hearts' in campaign

Volunteers Jeff and Olga Mosher prepare a box of food for a family in need. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The Hubbard County Food Shelf is asking residents to "Open Your Heart" - and pocketbooks - to assist with a fundraising challenge in July.

The food shelf is participating in a $100,000 challenge grant via Open Your Heart, a nonprofit organization with a mission to assist the hungry and homeless in Minnesota.

The donations collected in July will proportionally match the challenge funds.

"The more money collected, the more the grant will be," explained food shelf director Dave Long. This will be based on the number of Minnesota's 278 food shelves participating.

This will be the first year the Hubbard County Food Shelf requests this assistance, Long said.

"Last year, we were flush. Why take money away from food shelves that need the money?" he said.

But the move to Pleasant Avenue and building renovations have cost more than anticipated. This includes the city now charging for water and sewer. The fees were waived at the food shelf's former location.

The increased and unforeseen costs are coupled with the USDA regulation "forcing us to serve clients once a month," as opposed to three times a year.

In the first five months of the year, the food shelf has distributed 95.5 tons of food. This compares with 133 tons for the entire year in 2009. (The USDA regulations came into play in October 2010.)

Long anticipates by year's end, distribution will amount to more than 200 tons.

And a Christmas without food baskets for the needy is a looming possibility.

"If we don't have enough donations between now and November, we may have to cancel," Long said of the board's decision the month before the holiday.

Through May, 4,039 individuals have been served with 1,212 household clients. The numbers represent visits, not specific individuals and families.

"Nearly all being served are coming once a month," Long said of the clientele arriving from Hubbard and parts of Becker and Wadena counties.

Most are families with children, he said, the adults in their 20s and 30s.

A truck with vegetables and fruit is sent to Pine Point Wednesdays.

"Now's the time," Long said of those considering a donation.