HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 28, 2005

Empty shelves, empty stomachs: McLeod food shelf fights to stay open

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Marietta Neumann of Silver Lake has seen thousands of people helped by the McLeod County Emergency Food Shelf, but the food shelf may need help of its own as it records the lowest amount of supplies in 17 years.

“I’ve been trying to hold on so I won’t have to cut back on the amount of food going out, because people need that food,” Neumann said.

The food shelf served 25 more households this October than it did a year ago, and November is on track to do the same.

The McLeod Emergency Food Shelf has two locations, one in Hutchinson, and one in Glencoe, to accommodate county residents. It is a non-profit, private business that relies on donations.

But donations to the food shelf have been declining because people’s generosity is being stretched, and they are giving to other things, such as the Katrina catastrophe, Neumann speculates.

“Our own home residents have been forgotten,” Neumann said. “We’ve served more than 150 from Winsted and Lester Prairie so far this year. All areas need help, it isn’t just the neighboring towns, it’s your town.”

Many people may not realize the need in their community, even in their own families, according to Neumann.

One day, a father brought in a donation; an hour later, Neumann fed his son.

Likewise, a daughter came in need of help one day, and the mother had donated and had no idea her daughter was coming to the food shelf.

“They had a good working mother-daughter relationship, too, and the mother never knew. I see that a lot,” Neumann said.

In situations like these, confidentiality is important, also.

“You don’t say anything,” Neumann said.

People may also have a perception that the people who come to the food shelf are just too lazy to work, but Neumann knows better.

She has seen many senior citizens swallow their pride and come to the food shelf for help, because of high medicine costs and increased fuel bills.

“We see tears, we see buckets of tears,” Neumann said.

With the need in the community growing, and the increased cost of fuel bills, McLeod County Emergency Food Shelf is bracing for a long winter.

But fighting to keep the food shelf open is not something new to Neumann, who took over 17 years ago when the situation looked bleak.

“The treasurer at the time said we’d have to close the door, and I vowed I would not let that happen,” Neumann said.

The food shelf scraped through the hard times then, and is hoping to do so again. But, right now, Neumann is drawing on an emergency reserve to keep things going.

Once the reserve runs out, Neumann will have to rely solely on donations to make it through the winter.

“Donations are way down. We’re very low on things we never thought we’d be low on, the basics,” Neumann said.

Thanks to holiday contributions, the food shelf is doing a little better, but donations are still needed to push through until spring.

Donations of all kinds are needed, and cash donations have been a lifesaver for Neumann, who uses them to buy basic supplies.

“A good rule of thumb for donations is to ask what would you like to get if you came to the food shelf,” Neumann said.

Increased need and declining donations are cold facts to stomach, but Neumann has renewed her vow to not let the food shelf close, and is hanging on the generosity of the communities who use it.


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