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Food shelves seek donations - Growing need among families, seniors

It is that time of year where donations to Minnesota food shelves determine contributions from Minnesota FoodShare for the rest of the year. Local food shelves are continuing to see a growing need among families and older customers. Illustration

It is that time of year where donations to Minnesota food shelves determine contributions from Minnesota FoodShare for the rest of the year.

Local food shelves are continuing to see a growing need among families and older customers. At the Hackensack Food Shelf alone, Cheri Westphal said need has grown by as much as one-third with almost half of that increase being among younger families.

"What I see here is some of the young people got into the area, found a job and signed a lease in a place," Westphal said. "Then the place where they worked downsized their workload and off the people went while they still had a lease to pay for. I know that's part of it here in the area."

In 2016, Westphal said the food shelf served 1,106 families and handed out 40,024 pounds of food.

The Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes has also seen an increase in clients ages 36-59.

"I don't know if it's jobs or health care," said manager Carey Rasinski. "I know with 60-plus it is normally their meds versus something to eat, and they need their meds to survive."

The Lakes Area Food Shelf donated 198,000 pounds of food for 2,900 families in 2016.

Other area food shelves saw a more traditional increase in need among seniors, such as the Pine River Area Food Shelf, which saw an approximate 15 percent increase in families.

"(We) served 175 families in the month of January with 15 new households," said Jodi Perry, with the food shelf. "That's a lot."

As usual, growth in Pine River was largely among the shelf's seniors.

"The seniors are on such a fixed income," Perry said. "What little bit Social Security increases their checks is just about nonexistent. We continue with the seniors just about every month."

The Pine River Area Food Shelf served 1,854 families in 2016 and gave out 75,485 pounds of food.

The Crosslake Food Shelf served 87 families per month in 2016, totalling 97,543 pounds of food over the course of the year. In total, the food shelf served 551 seniors, 1,573 adults and 612 children.

Due to increased buying power, local food shelves prefer monetary donations when possible, but there are some items that are less common and more in demand.

"I guess we are looking for more money donations so we can buy meat," Westphal said. "Meat seems to be a priority. They like to have eggs, meat, butter and milk. We've tried to up that and to purchase it. We've had to go to local grocery stores when they have it on sale because Second Harvest doesn't always have it in."

"The best thing is money, just for the fact that we can buy a case of tuna fish, which is 24 cans for $2," Rasinski said. "We'll take anything nonperishable. We aren't going to say we don't want it, but the best thing is money. Personal hygiene - if people want to go out and purchase things, personal hygiene is all very important."

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Monetary donations can be mailed to food shelves at:

(Checks - do not send cash through the mail)

Lakes Area Food Shelf

P.O. Box 724

Nisswa, MN 56468

Pine River Area Food Shelf

P.O. Box 1

Pine River, MN 56474

Crosslake Food Shelf

P.O. Box 253

Crosslake, MN 56442

Hackensack Food Shelf

209 State Highway 371

Hackensack, MN 56452

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"Cash is always the No. 1 donation," Perry said. "Personal care items - toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry soap, shampoo and all those things they can't use EBT cards for. Any of those kinds of things we are always looking for. That kind of stuff is always important. You are supposed to find a job, but if you can't afford soap and deodorant you can hardly go out in public if you don't find yourself appealing."

Crosslake Food Shelf treasurer Nancy Rudberg agreed that while cash is preferred, all donations are welcome and the food shelf is especially in need of personal hygiene products, particularly shampoo and deodorant, as they are difficult to obtain through Second Harvest.

"A lot of people think of Crosslake as a relatively affluent area, but it is surprising how many people need help," Rudberg said. "There are a lot of reasons people need a food shelf."

During March there are often drives or special opportunities for donation among churches, schools and businesses. The Pine River Area Food Shelf is hosting one such event in the form of a spaghetti feed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Pine River American Legion.

Monetary donations can also be mailed to a chosen food shelf.

Dan Determan, staff writer, contributed to this story.