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With grocery costs up, food shelf use is up, too

With higher prices for groceries and gas, the Hubbard County Food Shelf is seeing an increase in clients as well, especially among those 65 and older.

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The Hubbard County Food Shelf is located at 308 Pleasant Ave. in Park Rapids.
Shannon Geisen/ Park Rapids Enterprise
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According to the July 13 Wall Street Journal, inflation recently hit a 40-year high of 9.1%.

Food shelf director Bob Hansen said, compared to last year, food shelf use is significantly higher.

“With subsidies, free lunches for all students and other government aid during the pandemic, we lost about 40 percent of our clients,” he said. “Now we’re seeing that reversing. Our client count is going back up. Comments I’ve heard are that it’s a combination of the government cutting back on what they were getting and the increased prices of groceries, gas and medications.”

Hansen said many people do not realize they are eligible to use the food shelf.

“The guidelines we fall under are if someone is making 300% of the poverty level, they would qualify. That’s up to $38,640 for a household of one. A lot of people out there, if they’re struggling, they would probably qualify – especially seniors on a fixed income. People shouldn’t have to choose between eating or paying for their medication. ”

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Hansen said food shelf use has increased the most for seniors. He looked at the numbers of clients served from January through June this year compared to the same time period in 2021.

The biggest increase was a 43% jump in unique visits for use for individuals aged 65 years or older. There was an increase of 24.4% for ages 18-64 and an increase of 16% for those from birth to age 17 receiving food.

“Unique visits are the first time someone comes in for the year,” he explained. “We’ve had 585 total household visits this year, where last year it was 433. That's 152 more visits during the first five months of this year than we had last year for the same period of time, so that’s up 35%.”

Using the food shelf

The food shelf is located at 308 Pleasant Ave. S. in Park Rapids and is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The first time a person visits the food shelf, they fill out a registration form. Those enrolled in other programs such as WIC, SNAP, General Assistance, Head Start, Energy Assistance, Free and Reduced Lunch or various other programs, no further income questions are asked.

Home delivery is also available and provided by volunteers. “They need to call in to schedule,” Hansen said.

In addition to the monthly “full service” cart of groceries food shelf participants receive, they can also stop in and pick up additional items that are available in the lobby for the remaining three weeks after 1 p.m., such as baked goods and fresh produce.

Volunteers needed for grocery pick up

Hugos, Coborns and Walmart all donate products to the food shelf.

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“They are kind enough to pass items that are close to the expiration date on to us,” Hansen said. “It varies every day: meat, refrigerated dairy, vegetables, bakery items and more. I’m looking for people to help me with that. I need someone who is going to be around at least one day during the summer months. The volunteer who had been doing Tuesdays had hip surgery, so he can’t do any lifting, so I’ve been covering for him.”

Volunteers should be able to lift and move 20 pounds or more of food from the store and bring it to the food shelf to unload it. Food is usually picked up between 9 and 10 a.m.

Volunteers are also needed at the food shelf from time to time.

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Julie Fladeboe is a volunteer and board member for the Hubbard County Food Shelf.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise

“With COVID going around and people having vacations, we could also use volunteers to fill our schedule at the food shelf,” Hansen said.

Call Hansen at 218-255-3538 for more information about volunteering or guidelines for using the food shelf.

Other ways to help

“When it comes to other donations, the best thing for people to donate is cash,” Hansen said. “We can buy food cheaper than they can, so our dollar can stretch further.”

Cash donations are used to purchase items the food shelf needs but isn’t receiving from local grocery stores or the food bank.

Donations may be dropped off during food shelf hours or checks mailed to Hubbard County Food Shelf, 308 Pleasant Ave. S., Park Rapids, MN, 56470.

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Gardeners may also drop off extra vegetables during food shelf hours.

“There are a couple of households out there who raise produce specifically to give to the food shelf,” he said. “We also usually get some donations from the farmer’s markets during the summer.”

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Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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