Food shelf pushes to store summer rations

Every year the pine squirrel digs a shallow midden, filling it with enough rations to last the winter.
The Zicks do the same for the North St. Paul Area Emergency Food Shelf, only they save up provisions for the summer months.
Food shelf director Linda Zick and her husband, president Dave Zick, lead volunteers in storing up the large influx of March donations. They hope to receive enough to make it through the lean warm months, which are the slow season for giving.
“People forget about us from April to October,” Linda Zick says of the 2538 Seppala Blvd. food shelf, which serves needy families in the area. “We take a trailer over to Second Harvest twice a week, but by the summer that stuff is gone.”
March is awareness month for the Minnesota Food Share Campaign. The food drive is organized by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, operating several social service campaigns for area families living in poverty.
March Campaign Coordinator Sue Kinz is happy with the Minnesota food shelf donations as the third week comes to an end.
“We have a combined total of 3 million pounds of food and dollars for the statewide campaign,” Kinz said. The goal for Minnesota Food Share is 8 million pounds and dollars, a sum they expect to reach with their final week generally being their most successful.  
For the North St. Paul Area Food Shelf this means a surge in generosity from local churches, schools and youth groups. The food shelf receives grants based on the facility’s cash donations and product intakes for March, as part an incentive program with the Minnesota Food Share.
“March represents half of all donations during the year, so the March campaign really is important for the North St. Paul Food Shelf,” Kinz said.
Still, the Zicks know that giving for recent natural disasters may mean less for Minnesota food shelves.
“We try not to push it as much, because people have been giving so much for Hurricane Katrina (this year),” Linda says.
 In mid-April the food shelf is also eligible for the Feinstein Foundation grant program, which was established by humanitarian Alan Shawn Feinstein and divides up $1 million among qualifying food shelves around the nation. For the past two years the local food shelf has received a stipend of about $500 from the foundation. Kinz says this year, they are set to receive more of that grant.
The North St. Paul food shelf serves up to 14 families a day, providing nourishment to low-income households in North St. Paul and most of Oakdale and Maplewood. Last year 2,204 families were served, providing 183,682 pounds of food, according to the organization’s 2005 report.
All of the work at the site is volunteer, with individuals from eight churches taking turns to bag groceries for needy families. Businesses such as Triple Crown Batting Cages in North St. Paul, also do their part. For almost four years, owner Dennis Bartholomew has offered a ‘buy one get one free’ token system for anyone who brings in a canned good. So far his tokens have been exchanged for 3,900 pounds of food, according to Dave Zick.
“Everyone needs to do their part, and it is kind of a nice way to give back to the community,” Bartholomew said.
 In order to use the food shelf, families must call in and provide their financial information. They then sign a form agreeing that they are eligible and they receive a week’s worth of food the following day.
All dry goods are provided at the Seppala Boulevard facility and vouchers for produce, milk, or other perishable items are redeemed at Silver Lake Market in North St. Paul.
Last year, 933 families were served by the food shelf, according to an organization report. Of this, 37 percent were from North St. Paul, 44 percent lived in Maplewood and 19 percent resided in Oakdale.
According to the State of Hunger Report by Hunger Solutions, food-shelf usage increased by 45 percent from 2000 to 2005.
The North St. Paul facility saw some physical improvements over the last year. Hunger Solutions, a service provider for Minnesota food shelves and banks, provided partial funding for new flooring and shelving. The food shelf also took on two additional freezers, one was free with an agreement to purchase a large quantity of fish from Hunger Solutions and the other freezer was purchased at the Mac’s Dinette auction.
The North St. Paul Area Emergency Food Shelf opened in the winter of 1981 under the direction of Crist and Joanne Langelett and the Rev. Roger Schwartz. Today the food shelf has grown from those few workers to over 100 area volunteers.
For more information on volunteering or receiving food, contact the North St. Paul Area Emergency Food Shelf at 777-5448.

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