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Area food shelves seek donations

March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, when food shelves throughout Minnesota ask their communities for an increase in donations.

This is done because the donations each food shelf collects in March determines how much additional donations these food shelves will receive from the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.

The Minneapolis Council of Churches began as a group dedicated to supporting food shelves in the metropolitan area; however, the group was so successful that it began offering proceeds to food shelves throughout the state. These donations are distributed according to the combined dollars and pounds that food shelves throughout the state raise.

The 2012 Minnesota FoodShare Month raised more than $8.4 million and more than 4.4 million pounds of food. This year’s March campaign has a goal to raise half of the food that food shelves distribute.

Pine River Area Food Shelf

The Pine River Area Food Shelf will host a fundraiser Saturday, March 23, called the Community Soup & Sweets Fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Warehouse in Pine River.

The event will offer community members the opportunity to support the Pine River Area Food Shelf by eating soups and baked goods. Donations of $7 for adults, $4 for children 12 and younger, and $21 for families are suggested and will be used to fund the Minnesota FoodShare Month March campaign for the Pine River Area Food Shelf. There will also be a $1 raffle for a handmade quilt.

This fundraiser is being held with the goal of reaching 24,000 combined dollars and pounds of food for March. This compares to last year’s end total of 22,000 combined dollars and pounds of food.

“I’m just happy for whatever we bring in,” said director Jodi Perry.

The Pine River Area Food Shelf serves 125-145 household units per month, though it can sometimes serve as many as 175 households in the summer. The Pine River Area Food Shelf has seen an increase in combined families, or household units of up to four generations, and single males.

“We’re seeing many younger people coming in, single males between 18 and 25. I think there is an increase because there just aren’t jobs anywhere, especially in this area,” Perry said.

The Pine River Area Food Shelf is funded throughout the year by many different types of donors, including businesses, churches and community organizations. Some businesses provide large quantities of day-old bread. As with many area food shelves, they prefer monetary donations over food donations, as they are able to stretch money further through Second Harvest.

To each person or household unit that asks for help, the Pine River Area Food Shelf tries to supply three days of food. Currently, foods such as flour and sugar are popular.

Hackensack Area Food Shelf

The Hackensack Area Food Shelf has a relatively short history. This March marks only the third Minnesota FoodShare Month that Cherie Westphal and her food shelf have participated in.

In that time the Hackensack Area Food Shelf has given out 36,941 pounds of food, serving 1,286 adults and 560 children.

The Hackensack Area Food Shelf benefits from having many of its operating costs paid for by its adjoining business, a thrift store called Share and Care. Both Share and Care and the Hackensack Area Food Shelf are owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Hackensack. Sharing a building has its advantages.

“Our food shelf is very lucky because Share and Care foots the bill for the electricity for all the deep freezes, so 100 percent of all we get goes back into food,” Westphal said.

The Hackensack food shelf operates on donations.

“There are always challenges as far as donations, both cash or food,” Westphal said. “Our main concern is that we haven’t been able to get some of the healthier breakfast cereals and meat. The last year or so it has been harder to get those products.”

The food shelf could use more donations of non-food products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and shampoos.

So far, 2013 has brought an increase in families of a specific sort — that is, new families with young children.

Overall, the Hackensack Area Food Shelf serves up to 206 families in a single month. Last year in March, the food shelf raised more than 13,000 combined dollars and pounds of food. This year, it is aiming for 15,000.

To reach that goal, the Hackensack Area Food Shelf will host a fundraiser. Using products purchased from Second Harvest, a group dedicated to lowering the cost of food products for nonprofit organizations, the food shelf will host a spaghetti feed Saturday, March 23, at the Hackensack Senior Center from 4:30-7 p.m., where they will accept freewill donations. Organizers hope this promotion will help them reach their goal in March.