By Kristen Miller
Many families who are less fortunate this season will depend on the kindness of others for a meal.
“In general, living expenses are at an all-time high,” said Brenda Voigt, director of the Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf, located in downtown Litchfield.
This has greatly increased the food shelf’s usage from other years, according to Voigt.
Last year, the Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf served 900 households, 1,300 adults, 792 children, and 122 elderly.
This year, Voigt has seen an upsurge of 10 to 15 new families a month who receive food donations.
“People are in dire need,” Voigt said.
She has also seen an increase in the number of elderly coming for food.
“Many senior citizens are not able to afford both food and prescriptions,” Voigt said.
Although it is hard for elderly to come in for help, Voigt wants them to know the food shelf is there for them.
“Sometimes, they just need someone to talk to,” she said.
Even though donations of food are always accepted, the food shelf also needs monetary donations to keep the doors open.
Through monetary donations, it is able to pay for electricity, heat, and the staff, Voigt said.
Also, monetary donations help the food shelf purchase food from the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank, where food is sold at a reduced price, according to Voigt.
The Cokato Area Food Shelf, located at Elim Mission Church on Broadway Avenue, served 203 families and 705 individuals last year in the Dassel-Cokato area, according to Russ Irvin, food shelf co-coordinator.
Persons in need must call and sign up at the church office from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and Thursday before noon for the Friday pickup at 9:30 a.m.
People are allowed to use it once a month and on a needs basis only.
This year, the Cokato food shelf will not be donating Christmas baskets to local families, but they are packing Christmas boxes.
The boxes will include food items and a voucher for the Marketplace to purchase items such as fresh meat, vegetables, dairy, and bread, according to Irvin.
Boxes will be packed Thursday, Dec. 13 and delivered to families Friday, Dec. 14.
The Cokato Area Food Shelf accepts both food and monetary donations.
The Wright County Community Action, located in downtown Waverly, supplies not only food but also clothing.
Last year it served 517 households, and 1,739 individuals in the towns of Waverly, Montrose, and Howard Lake.
This year, the food shelf use is up 20 percent and donations are not matching that increase, according to Shirley Legatt, special projects coordinator.
There are several reasons the food shelf has seen an increase in use. Legatt has seen a rise in one-time users who may have unexpected costs such as a car repair or medical expenses, she said.
Also, with the gas prices and high utility costs, people are trying to adjust, she added.
To prevent people from abusing the system and to help those truly in need, there is an income eligibility with a monthly gross income less than $2,151 per household.
“We don’t want to be a hand-out. We try to work with them to resolve the crisis and [provide] assistance with other local resources,” Legatt said. This could include energy assistance, for example.
Also last year, more than 100 food baskets were provided for the holiday season each a $25 value. Both food and monetary donations will be accepted during operating hours from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The McLeod County Emergency Food Shelves are located in Glencoe and Hutchinson for McLeod County residents in need.
Executive Director Marietta Neumann said this is the busiest year for the food shelf and also the lowest in donations in the 19 years she has worked there.
“The shelves are pretty darn empty,” she said.
As of the end of October, the food shelf is up 162 households from last year, she said.
In 2006, it served 1,956 families and 6,093 individuals.
Service hours are 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. There is no income eligibility.
All locations are accepting food and monetary locations. See side bar for addresses and phone numbers.
The need has increased
With the increasing costs of living, more and more people are depending on help from their local food shelves.
There are several in the area now accepting donations, both food and monetary, to begin stocking their shelves for the holiday and winter seasons including the Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf, Wright County Community Action, the Cokato Area Food Shelf, and the McLeod County Emergency Food Shelf.
Besides the high energy costs, there are several other reasons for families and individuals to depend upon food donations including, the lack of day care assistance, high costs of insurance, and the cost of prescriptions for the elderly.
To make a donation to your local food shelf
Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf, Inc., 118 North Sibley Ave., Litchfield, 55355; (320) 693-7661. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Mondays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cokato Area Food Shelf, located in Elim Mission Church, 405 Broadway Ave. South, (320) 286-2662.
Wright County Community Action, located in the Community Action Building, 5th Street and Elm Avenue, Waverly; (763) 658-4414.
McLeod County Emergency Food Shelf, has two locations for county residents. The Hutchinson location is at 105 2nd Ave. S.W.; (320) 587-4796. The Glencoe location is at 808 East 12th Street, 55336. (Checks should be sent to the Glencoe location).