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Food shelf drive nearing deadline

Time is marching on in Hubbard County's Food Shelf drive, with food and monetary donations arriving daily. The food and funds raised during the spring drive, which concludes April 6, are the basis for the year's funding from Minnesota FoodShare. ...

Time is marching on in Hubbard County's Food Shelf drive, with food and monetary donations arriving daily.

The food and funds raised during the spring drive, which concludes April 6, are the basis for the year's funding from Minnesota FoodShare. Donations made during the rest of the year are beneficial, but go unmatched.

Food shelf director Dave Long is anticipating a need as great or greater than last year's, when requests for assistance increased by 15.5 percent.

The people arriving at the food shelf are not necessarily on welfare, he said. They are often facing a temporary financial crisis.

For the most part, those seeking assistance are the working poor, Long said. Their income does not cover basic needs. Low wages without benefits, skyrocketing housing and energy costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses make working families vulnerable to hunger.

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Food shelf vouchers are issued by a variety of sources, including churches, social services and Mahube.

Statewide, more than half of food shelf visitors are families with children. Fifteen percent of food shelf clients are seniors.

"This is a great place for people who need it," said Kenton Crowell, who arrived to request assistance this week. Crowell, who's disabled, is on a fixed income that often "doesn't go far enough.

"I'm glad its here for people who need it - especially people with kids," he said.

County residents have been responding generously, Long said, citing a Nevis resident who makes a significant contribution annually.

Area organizations and churches continue to lend a helping hand, specifically St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. Propelled by its youth group, the congregation provides more donations than all the other area churches combined, Long said.

The Hubbard County DFL made a $500 donation to the food shelf, throwing down the gauntlet. Members are challenging other organizations (specifically, the GOP) to match their initiative.

Cost of food through the North Country Food Bank is up by 22 percent this year, Long said.

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The Crookston-based food bank offers four categories of food. Free food is accessed for the cost of freight, 4 cents a pound. USDA surplus food can be purchased for 8 cents a pound. "Regular menu items" are 22 cents per pound and "purchased product" matches the price of a large wholesale provider.

Some of the purchased product is of benefit, Long said, but many times local grocers better or equal the price.

Nearly three-quarters of the state's food shelf clients live in unaffordable housing. Half spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing and a quarter spend 30 to 50 percent of their income on housing.

As program cuts continue, for many, the food shelf is the only help available.

"Because of Minnesotans' generosity, food shelves so far have been able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for food," according to Minnesota FoodShare.

There are now more than 300 food shelves in Minnesota, serving every county in the state.

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 Dakota Clinic.

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Preferred donations include:

? Canned - fruit, tomatoes, stew, vegetables, soup, meats, kidney beans, pork and beans and fruit juice.

? 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.

? 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.

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