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Editorial: Step up giving to the food shelf this month

With March declared as Minnesota FoodShare month, make sure to step up giving this month if you're able.

Donations received by food shelves in March are the basis for funding for the entire year through Minnesota FoodShare.

You can start your giving by attending this year's Chili Challenge, hosted by the Park Rapids Enterprise. The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today (Wednesday), March 7 at the Park Rapids American Legion. All donations go to the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

Food shelf coordinator Dave Long reports 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.

Individuals served by the food shelf were up by 48 percent; family numbers rose by 27 percent. "We're seeing larger families," Long said of blended and multi-generational families.

Twenty-eight percent of those served by the food shelf arrived from outside of Park Rapids itself in 2011. Residents arrived from Akeley (234), Nevis (214), Menahga (197), Laporte (195) and other area towns.

And while needs rose, food poundage from the USDA decreased.

But thanks to the area's generosity the food shelf is solvent; the last payment will be made on the new building on Pleasant Avenue in April.

Last summer, when the food shelf took part in a fundraising challenge via "Open Your Heart," area residents came through in grand style, making one of the largest proportional donations to the food shelf in the state.

At today's Chili Challenge, chili chefs will be giving samples of chili for a dollar, with proceeds going to the food shelf.

Fran Gack will once again provide toe-tappin' bean chompin' music.

A decadent, delectable array of chocolates will cap the event, created by Enterprise chocolatiers.

Food shelf volunteers will be on hand to assist with the culinary adventure.

We encourage you to stop by the event. If you're unable, please consider a donation to the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

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. Checks may also be sent to the food shelf at 308 Pleasant Avenue.