Pine River Food Shelf becomes a certified SuperShelf

Years long process has concluded with more welcoming space

The Pine River-Backus Area Food Shelf was certified a super shelf. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

The Pine River Area Food Shelf has received certification as a SuperShelf in Minnesota !

Forty years ago, Marie Smith and friends stocked groceries under the stairs in the First Lutheran Church to give to those who were identified as needing a little help. This was the start of the Pine River Area Food Shelf.

The need only grew with time. Later, the food shelf was moved to a vacant room in the church basement where we stored our groceries and a schedule was set to see "clients" twice a week. Because of cramped spacing, we had to prebox the groceries and clients only had choices of meat and dairy.

The Pine River-Backus Area Food Shelf was certified a super shelf. Submitted Photo (May 2021)


Eventually, we had a powwow with community leaders and decided to move the operation to the Pine River-Backus Family Center and operate under their umbrella. That was five years ago.

We transformed one room into a warehouse for supplies/groceries and the second room became our client-centered food shelf. A couple years ago, we applied for a grant from Hunger Partners (part of the University of Minnesota) to transform our food shelf into a SuperShelf.

A SuperShelf has to meet the qualifications of:

  • Supply: Increase quantity of better foods.
  • Stretch: Add variety meeting their guidelines.
  • Shift: Organize by food groups.
  • Showcase: Promote marketing and signage toward healthy foods.
  • Survey: Evaluate fidelity, food choices, client response, costs.
  • Sustain: Short term - inventory, sourcing, donations, recognition; long-term - food sources, costs and availability, values, guidelines, policy adopted.
  • The foundation of the SuperShelf values: Good food, respect for all, collaborative partnerships, evidence-based practices, systemic thinking. The objective is to increase appeal with behavioral economics and increase access with our stocking standards.

The Pine River-Backus Area Food Shelf was certified a super shelf. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

The transformation began with the grant allowing us to paint the area in bright colors and add section signage, colorful images for the wall, new shelving and a glass cooler refrigeration. We are now accessible for wheelchairs to move around and have regular carts for self-shopping.

Variety is the name of the game and being able to choose what your family will eat is a plus. Our food shelf now looks like an attractive grocery store for a more enjoyable shopping experience.

Recently, our food shelf passed inspection from the University of Minnesota Extension and we were officially granted SuperShelf status! This is the way of the future for all food shelves and we are appreciative of the volunteers who helped with the transition and gladly learned all the new procedures put into place to continue to serve our clients at an optimum level.


We care that our clients (new and past) feel welcomed and respected and are able to find healthy choices for their family. We understand the hunger need is real and unforeseen circumstances occur that make us vulnerable to needing help with the grocery bill. Privacy is protected and your information is never shared with anyone or any entity.

The Pine River-Backus Area Food Shelf was certified a super shelf. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

If you have a need or know someone who could use a little help with groceries, please feel free to drop by. We are open each week on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the exception of the second Tuesday of the month, when we are open from 3:30-6 p.m.

Questions? Please call the family center at 218-587-4292. Donations can be sent to: Pine River Area Food Shelf, P.O. Box 1, Pine River, MN 56474.

Kathleen Stephan is a volunteer at the Pine River-Backus Family Center and Pine River Area Food Shelf.

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