Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

This is the busiest time of the year for our food shelf. Yesterday, 106 families came to get food before the holiday. It will likely be busy today too. Thanksgiving is all about sharing food with family. Thanks to a generous community, we are able to help keep our neighbors from going hungry during the holidays and throughout the year.

People who never expected to need help feeding their families are coming to us in desperation. One man came in for the first time with his wife and daughter. It was obvious they had never been in a food shelf before, they were confused and embarrassed to be there. The father had recently lost his business and they had exhausted all their resources. It was painful for our volunteers to see how terrible this family felt about asking for help. We can't fix their financial situation, but we can give them hope by providing food, and give them comfort in knowing that people care.

Thanksgiving is the best of times and the worst of times for those of us who provide food assistance. Thankfully, we have enough food to provide for the thousands of people who need us. But the numbers of people in need are growing so fast we worry that we can't keep up with demand. Many food shelves have seen increases of 10 to 20% over last year. Providing that much more food is challenging. Helping all the people is hard physical work, but the "thank you's" and hugs are so rewarding.

When I look around my family table tomorrow, I'll be thankful that we are together and that we have the resources to provide for our needs. I'm thankful that we live in a country and a community that cares. And I'm hopeful that the future will bring change so that we can all survive and thrive in this great country.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Planning Christmas Dinner for 1,700

This week the Itasca Holiday Program 2008 went into high gear. We have been planning for months to provide enough food for about 1,700 Holiday food boxes. This is a huge effort and we do it in addition to our regular work, which is also busier during the holidays. Thanks to the assistance of many volunteers, we will be able to provide this much needed program.

The theme this year is "Weaving the Community Together with Food." The inspiration for the theme comes from our annual commemorative holiday ornament. Local fiber artist, Susan Vann, has created a beautiful, hand-woven miniature piece with a historic star pattern.

The Itasca area community works together like interlacing threads to provide a holiday food box to families and individuals who are struggling to meet their daily needs. Children in these families are provided with toys and books.

Threads in many colors are are provided by this generous community:
  • Social Service agencies, churches and other charities refer people in need
  • Churches and businesses collect toys via the Gingerbread Giving Trees
  • Many organizations have toy and fund drives
  • Volunteers sort and pack toy bags and food boxes
  • Site coordinators at nine locations throughout Itasca County and Hill City organize and distribute the toy bags and food boxes to people in their local community
  • Hundreds of people donate toys and funds
  • Second Harvest stitches the program together to produce food boxes and toy bags for local families and children
The Itasca Holiday Program weaves a safety net that feeds hope and ensures that our friends and neighbors in need do not go without during this holiday season of sharing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hunting and Hunger

This weekend Minnesota hunters will be out in force, after the big buck or just some venison for the family table. Hunters also have the opportunity to donate venison to a food shelf in their community. Processors around the state have signed up to process deer to be donated to food shelves for distribtution to people seeking food assistance. Food shelves are grateful for the donated vension as good quality donated protein is in scarce supply and expensive to purchase. People coming to food shelves in northern Minnesota are often familiar with venison and happy to receive it.

This year only whole muscle cuts will be processed and donated to Minnesota food shelves. Whole cuts have been found to be generally free of lead fragments that were found in ground venison last year.

The venison donation program enables hunters to take an extra deer, decrease the surplus population, and provide food for their neighbors in need. Good Luck Hunters!