By Marietta Neumann
Once again it is time to make the annual appeal for the March Food Share Drive. This very important drive is what supplies the McLeod County emergency food shelf during the summer months.
All the food that is donated during the month stays here in the county, and credit is given for the amount received at the Second Harvest-St. Paul Food Bank. A weekly inventory sheet from Second Harvest shows what is available and an order is placed from that list once a month. This order provides personal care items and what is needed for the summer months when there are very few donations coming in.
Without this credit, the shelves would have been practically empty last fall. Inventory showed that all that was left of the donated items was cream of mushroom soup, pumpkin, and some pasta products. We were fortunate to be able to obtain commodity products and food from the disaster relief program, as McLeod County had been considered a disaster county during that time.
In 1997, the food shelf in McLeod County gave out 106,302.5 pounds of food and personal care items from the 111,548.5 pounds of items received during the year. Donations have been going down but usage is going up.
Last year 1,643 households were served, 258 more than in 1996. This meant that 5,170 individuals from newborn to 85 years of age benefited from the food shelf. Of these, 796 households used the food shelf only one time and 224 needed help twice. As you can see, no one "lived off of the food shelf."
Individuals under the age of 20 served by the food shelf numbered 1,306, and 83 individuals were over 60. There were 102 families with "special needs" and only five people abused the food shelf. There was a state-wide survey taken in September of 1997, and again in January of 1998, which showed that the majority of the people using the food shelf are the "working poor."
The food shelf is not a county agency. It does not receive any tax money from the county, but relies strictly on donations. Money that is donated goes to buy hamburger, cheese, eggs, powdered milk, and other items needed to make a well balanced diet that have not been donated.
Only residents of McLeod County that are in an emergency situation just three to four times a year and not more often than 30 days are served by the food shelf. Food is given from all four food groups to supply a well balanced diet for three to four days. If the food is used wisely it will last for a longer period of time; for example, a box of cereal or a bag of flour lasts more than three days. The amount of food given is determined by the size of the household.
A common misbelief is that the migrants take all the food and are the only ones using the food shelf. Actually they are only about one third of the users, and Seneca helps to pay for the amount that they use, besides the amount of product that Seneca donates.
Heavier usage of the food shelf in the summer is due to the fact that school is out and children are home all day "raiding the refrigerator" and not getting the noon lunch at school. Also there is the cost of school clothes and the extra expenses at the time that school starts.
Another popular misconception is that with all the jobs available in McLeod county no one should need to go to the food shelf. Many times the clients are working but not getting a wage high enough to keep them out of the poverty level. Even the slightest emergency puts them in need of the food shelf. There are a lot of different circumstances that can cause the emergency and a family might not even know that someone in their own family needs help.
More senior citizens need the food shelf now than in the past due to high medical bills using up their social security checks. Also, with all the welfare cuts that are coming into practice, social services has informed us "to be prepared" for an increase in usage, as there will be a lot of people that will be needing help.
Your support of the March food share drive will make a real difference to someone in this area who needs some help to get through a difficult time.