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Food shelf need on the rise

Arnie and Nikki Wenger help to stock shelves at the Hubbard County Food Shelf. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

By Anna Erickson

The Hubbard County Food Shelf continues to see more need but saw fewer donations last year.

“We spent $30,000 more than we took in last year and our poundage was up 10 percent from the year before,” food shelf coordinator Dave Long reported. “And we had 145 fewer cash donators.”

He’s not entirely sure why the donations were less but the economy is his best guess. The food shelf keeps track of business donations during the March fundraising campaign and those donations were fewer.

“I imagine that could speak to the economy as well,” he said.

In 2013, 317 tons of food was given out to 15,450 individuals. That amounts to 4,699 families.

“It didn’t surprise us at all that the need keeps going up. What did surprise us was coming up $30,000 short,” Long said.

The food shelf had built up a surplus over the years but can’t continue operating with a deficit, Long said.

“Everyone here is a volunteer. We pay no salaries,” he said.

Volunteers serve in many capacities, including shoveling sidewalks, plowing, stocking shelves, giving out food, working on the calendar or writing thank you notes.

The food shelf is seeing more seniors that hadn’t previously used those services.

If donations don’t increase the food shelf would have to cut out the turkey meal baskets it gives out each year around Christmas.

More than 554,000 Minnesotans in 2012 received federal food assistance – one out of every 10 people in the state, according to Minnesota Food Share. A third was children. Another quarter was elderly or disabled adults. The total is more than the combined populations of Minneapolis, Rochester and Apple Valley.

The number of Minnesota children eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has increased 150 percent since December 2006, making children the fastest growing population of SNAP participants in the state.

The 2013 Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign raised more than $8.3 million and almost 4 million pounds of food. That is the equivalent of a year’s worth of meals for more than 7,700 families of four.

The Feinstein grant also includes April in the campaign. Any donations made to the food shelf in March or April will get Feinstein grant money added to it.

The Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign raises more than half the food distributed annually at 300 food shelves statewide. A grassroots food and fund drive, the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign is the only statewide effort where every dollar donated goes directly to food shelves to purchase food for the hungry.

Hubbard County’s Food Shelf is tied with Detroit Lakes for the second largest food shelf in the northwest area of the state, Long said. Bemidji is the biggest.

Hubbard County draws from a large area including Nevis, Akeley, Menahga, Osage, Wolf Lake, Laporte and Cass Lake.

Cash is the best way to donate because food can be purchased from a regional food bank in Crookston.

“Regular things like cold cereal that you might pay $3-4 dollars for in the store we can get for 18 cents,” Long said.

The Park Rapids Enterprise is once again sponsoring the Chili Challenge.

The fifth annual event is a kick-off for the Hubbard County Food Shelf food- and fundraising drive in March.

The Chili Challenge will be held over the noon hour Wednesday, March 12 at the Park Rapids American Legion.

Teams, individuals, businesses, civic organizations and church groups are invited to cook up a pot of chili, recruit samplers and serve the concoction.

A buck buys a vote for the “People’s Choice” award.

Chili samplers will donate a dollar per dollop (small cupful) of chili. Every sampler will be given a ballot to choose the tastiest bowl of chili.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

For more information or to sign up as a chili chef contact Candy at 732-3364 or e-mail cparks@parkrapidsenterprise. com. (See accompanying ad in this edition.)

To make a donation to the Hubbard County Food Shelf via the Chili Challenge, send checks made payable to the Hubbard County Food Shelf to the Park Rapids Enterprise, P.O. Box 111, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Or arrive from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 at the Legion to partake in the festivities.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561