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Commentary: Food insecurity in the lakes country?

Joan Zuehlsdorff stocks baked goods before opening the Pine River Area Food Shelf. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal1 / 2
Donn Beaubien2 / 2

Unfortunately, there are families, individuals, young adults and seniors in our own community who experience food insecurity.

Food insecurity, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a "lack of consistent access to enough food for an active healthy life." It means one is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year ... (is) struggling to avoid hunger ... (or is) hungry or faced by the threat of hunger."

Since 1982, each March there is a Minnesota FoodShare campaign to raise awareness of food insecurity. Statewide, there are more than 300 food shelves. In Minnesota more than 550,000 people experience food insecurity, which results in more than 3,000,000 visits to food shelves annually.

In Crow Wing County, there are seven food shelves: Brainerd (Salvation Army), Central Lakes College, Crosby (Cuyuna Range), Crosslake, Emily, Garrison (Garrison Area Caregivers) and Pequot Lakes (Lakes Area Food Shelf). Last year the Lakes Area Food Shelf served 280 families from around the area. Last year more than 195,000 pounds of food were distributed from this location alone. Indeed, there is a need!

Since the switch to "client choice" shopping, there is less waste because the clients choose what they need, use and enjoy. The clients who use the Lakes Area Food Shelf are gracious and appreciative—frequently we hear "please" and "thank you."

Although the focus in March is on increasing the awareness of food insecurity, for many of us this is also a season of reflection on almsgiving. We are reflecting on how to respond practically to the needs of our brothers and sisters who struggle with hunger. So, how can you help?

Check with your community food shelf and see how you can be of service. But for starters, here are some ideas based on "time, talent and treasure":

• Time: Volunteer to help unload trucks, stock shelves, help clients make their selections, or help with miscellaneous maintenance and other projects.

• Talent: Spread the word about the need to support the food shelves, offer your skills in marketing or as a speaker, offer your skills in your area of expertise.

• Treasure: Although your food donations are always appreciated, your monetary donation goes significantly further. As an example, recently our food shelf manager was able to purchase 2-pound bags of wild rice for $.63 per bag; therefore, a $20.00 donation could purchase more than 30 bags of wild rice.

Yes, it's a reality that food insecurity exists in our community. But with your help, we can all make a difference. Your generosity to your area food shelf would be greatly appreciated.

In the words of Mother Teresa, "Live simply so others may simply live."

DONN BEAUBIEN is a Lakes Area Food Shelf board member/volunteer.

Phone numbers for Crow Wing County food shelves

Brainerd (Salvation Army) 218-829-1120

Central Lakes College 218-855-8260

Crosby (Cuyuna Range) 218-546-7444

Crosslake 218-692-3430

Emily 218-763-3663

Garrison (Area Caregivers) 320-692-5399

Pequot Lakes (LAFS) 218-568-8474