Herald JournalHerald Journal Holiday Guide, Dec. 2, 2002

Flood victims were users of the county food shelves

By Julie Yurek

The holidays should be a joyous time of year, but for some families, it's not.

For some, it's a struggle to put food on the table during the year, let alone during the holidays.

For this reason, food shelves at McLeod, Wright, and Carver counties exist.

The average number of visits per person is one, said McLeod County Food Shelf Coordinator and Winsted resident Marietta Neumann. "The majority of people only use it once to get through a crisis."

"This year, we saw flood victims from Winsted and other areas come in," she said.

The Winsted library is a drop off location, Neumann said. Churches may also be collecting food.

St. John's Sunday School in Winsted donated more than $600 from the chicken dinner it had last year, she said.

With that money, Neumann gives out grocery store gift certificates for meat products only, she said. The certificates are given out year round, not just at holiday time, she said.

The amount of food each family receives depends on the size of the family, Neumann said.

A proof of address is all one needs to use the food shelf, she said.

The food shelf in McLeod County is located at 808 12th St. E Glencoe, and is open from 9 a.m. to noon. The telephone number is (320) 864-2088.

The Wright County food shelf is located at 411 Elm Ave. Waverly. The telephone number is (763) 658-4414.

The Carver County food shelf has multiple locations, with one in Watertown at (952) 955-1980 and another in Norwood Young America at (952) 467-1870.

In many cities, churches, schools, and organizations conduct food drives to get needed donations.

Non-perishable food items are obviously needed, as are donations of infant formula, diapers, personal hygiene products, and household cleaning supplies, according to the Emergency Food Shelf Network, which is based in St. Louis Park.

Food shelves are open to anyone who is unable to provide for themselves or their family. Almost one-third of users are the "working poor," people who are employed but earn such a low wage they are unable to meet their most basic needs, according to the Network.

Food shelves generally provide a limited amount of food, a three-to-five-day supply, to individuals and families, according to the Network.

Hunger facts:

 

The following are statistics provided by Minnesota FoodShare, at www.gmcc.org/mfs.

· 1.32 million people visited Minnesota's food shelves in 2001. This is a nearly 10 percent increase from 2000, the largest increase in a decade. Many food shelves have experienced a 50 percent increase.

· food shelves distributed 29 million pounds of food in 2001, up from 26 million in 2000.

The increase in pounds of food and people served are linked to rising unemployment.

· Nearly half of the hungry who visit food shelves are children.

Hungry kids have difficulty learning and have more medical problems and absenteeism than children with adequate nourishment.

· about 20 percent of all food shelf clients in 2001 were elderly.

· about 43 percent of food shelf clients work. Thirty five percent are retired or have a disability, which prevents work.

· people using food shelves do not make enough income to cover their basic needs: only an average of $8.36 per hour. Low wages without benefits, child care expenses, skyrocketing housing costs, and high out-of-pocket medical expenses make working families vulnerable to hunger.

· in the past 10 years, the average worker's salary rose 9 percent. His rent rose 34 percent.

· the poverty rate ($18,100 for a family of four) is an annual income number used to determine federal and state benefits. It has not been updated to reflect today's actual cost of living. This means many deserving families in dire straits still cannot qualify for housing and child care subsidies or food stamps.

· the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour does not even approach self-sufficiency.


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