Thursday, December 31, 2009

DRHS K.O.P.E. Feeds the Need

The K.O.P.E. group from the Deer River High School, with help from Advocates for Family Peace organized a Penny Drive in Deer River area prior to Christmas with 100% of the proceeds going to Second Harvest Food Bank for the Itasca Holiday Program.  K.O.P.E. stands for Kids Organizing for a Peaceful Environment.

Thanks to the Deer River businesses for allowing the Penny Drive buckets on their counters: Cenex, Holiday Station Store, Ott Drug, Jurvelin Hardware, The Outpost Bar and Grill, Shelley’s and Woodland Bank.  The total collected was $232.90.

Thanks so much to K.O.P.E. and the Deer River businesses who helped Feed the Need this holiday season.

KOPE Deer River donation

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Did Meet the Need

Thanks to a caring and generous community, Second Harvest distributed approximately 1,700 holiday food boxes this season.  Almost 2,000 kids received a gift bag.  Everyone who requested assistance was helped, thanks to overwhelming community support.  Thanks so much from Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baich Clinic Supports Second Harvest

Dr. Michael Baich’s Clinic in Coleraine supports the work of Second Harvest.  Dr. Baich understands and appreciates that Second Harvest can stretch resources and feed many people.  Thanks to Dr. Baich and his help in feeding the need this holiday season.

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Eagles Auxiliary Supports Grand Rapids Food Shelf

Once again, the Grand Rapids Eagles Auxiliary has come through in support of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.  Bingo night has been very successful and the club has designated the proceeds to the Food Shelf.  This support is crucial as the food shelf strives to meet the increase in need we are experiencing right now.  We sincerely appreciate this support.

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Itasca Vintage Car Club Supports the Grand Rapids Food Shelf

Members of the Itasca Vintage Car Club met at Second Harvest on Monday to present a check in support of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.  Itasca Vintage Car Club members are big supporters of Second Harvest and the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.  In addition to financial donations, many members are regular volunteers.  Many Thanks to the Itasca Vintage Car Club!

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MN Ore Feeds the Need

Scott Coleman, on behalf of the men and women of MN Ore, presented Second Harvest with a check on Friday morning.  We sincerely appreciate the support from MN Ore to help provide a brighter holiday for people in this region. 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Food Box Packing Fun

Sunday, December 13th will go down as a record day for food boxing at Second Harvest.  The 41 volunteers and many staff members packed almost 1,700 food boxes in slightly less than 3 hours. 

The holiday food boxes contained ingredients for a holiday meal plus some staple items.  A cookbook was included with recipes that could be made from items in the box. 

Groups represented were: Itasca Vintage Car Club and the Baha’i Group along with food bank staff members families.  Packing ran like clockwork because so many of them have volunteered for this before, some of them for many years.  Thanks so much!

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Volunteers pack over 1,600 toy bags Saturday

Saturday, December 12th was a big day at Second Harvest when about 87 volunteers plus staff members packed over 1,600 bags of toys for local children in need. 

Donated toys were stacked high in the bins when packing started at 9am.  By 11, the bags were completed and organized by the community they would be distributed in. 

Thanks to all the groups and individuals who came to help.  Some of the larger groups were:

  • Nashwauk Alliance Youth Group
  • GR International Club
  • Lawron Church
  • Bethel Trinity Confirmation Classes

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Countdown to the Itasca Holiday Program Toy Packing Day

Today Second Harvest is buzzing with activity as we prepare to pack about 1,800 toy bags for local children.  On Saturday morning over 80 volunteers will gather here to assemble bags of toys for children who have been referred to the program.

Each bag has the name of the parent, the age and gender of the child and the distribution location listed.  Volunteers pack the bags according to instructions for each age group.  By noon on Saturday we will have all the bags packed and ready for delivery to one of the nine communities where families come to pick up their gift bags and holiday food boxes.  

On Monday, food bank delivery trucks start to take loads of food boxes, toy bags and other items like hats and mittens to each community where volunteers coordinate local distribution. 

Thanks to a very caring, generous community, Second Harvest is confident that we will be able to Feed the Need this holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Grand Rapids Evening Rotary Club Meets at Second Harvest

More than 30 members of the Grand Rapids Rotary Club met at Second Harvest on Monday evening for what has become an annual volunteer event.  After a meal and short meeting, the club members received an update on Second Harvest and the Itasca Holiday Program.  Then they got to work sorting hundreds of donated toys into age and gender categories.  Some of the Rotarians chose packing commodity boxes instead of toy sorting. 

Second Harvest depends on volunteers to accomplish the huge effort that the Itasca Holiday Program demands.  This Rotary Club has been volunteering for the Itasca Holiday Program since Second Harvest moved into the new building in 2002.  In addition to the annual evening project, the club has been instrumental in providing traffic control for the Grand Rapids distribution day. 

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Friday, December 4, 2009

ICC Nursing Students Help Feed the Need

Today there were 40 students from the ICC Nursing Program volunteering at Second Harvest.  After a brief overview about how Second Harvest operates, the students spent the morning re-packing frozen vegetables and stacking canned food for the Itasca Holiday Program food boxes. 

It takes the work of many hands to provide for our neighbors in need.  Thanks to the ICC Nursing Students for helping Feed the Need this holiday season.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

KQ Ride to Feed the Need raised food and funds for Second Harvest yesterday

KQ 105.5 Grand Rapids and the Iron Range brought the Trainwreck to Grand Rapids yesterday. The goal was a Ride to Feed the Need and support Second Harvest North Central Food Bank this holiday season. Thanks to all the businesses that participated:

· Wildwoods Trail Rides provided the draft horses and wagon

· Jerry’s Warehouse Liquor

· Tom Clusiau’s Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and GMC

· Ogle’s Marketplace Foods

· Lakes Area Credit Union

· Something Original

· Wings and Willows

· Mississippi Diamond Jewelers

· The Wardrobe

· Itasca Trail Sports

· River’s Italian

· Cell Phone Stuff

· Timberlake Lodge

· Rafferty’s Pizza

Thanks to the customers of these fine establishments for helping out the cause with donations of food or cash. Over $200 and almost 1,000 pounds of food was collected!

Thanks especially to KQ for holding this event!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Itasca Holiday Program Match Opportunity

Mr. Lyman Loveland, a new friend of the food bank from Nebraska, with ties to our area, has offered the Itasca Holiday Program a match to generate new donations. Donations up to $2,000 between now and Friday, December 4th will be matched and all donations given through the option on our website will also have no fees charged!

Please help Feed the Need!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Food Stamp Usage Interactive Map from The New York Times

Food stamp use has soared in many areas as more people are affected by the economic recession.  Check out county by county information in this interactive map from The New York Times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ogles Marketplace Foods and Forest Lake School Stuff a Truck for the Grand Rapids Food Shelf

Forest Lake Elementary School held a food drive and the classroom collecting the most food won a Pizza Party paid for by Ogle’s.  Todd Peart’s Third Grade Classroom was the winner.  The school brought in a total of 743 pounds.  All of the food collected will be donated to the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.  The Stuff –a -Truck store promotion also provided Ogles  customers a way to help the food shelf by providing bags pre-packed with staple food items for customers to buy at check out. The effort resulted in 8 pallets of filled bags or 3,572 pounds of food for the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.

“It was a great collaboration between the store and the school and according to Kurt Ogle, Store Director, and we hope to get more schools involved next year. “ He added, “ The customers have been very supportive and he attributes that to the fact that so many people we all know are living through some pretty tough times and most people who are able to give want to help.”

Ogles employees pictured are:  Kurt Ogle, Jim Davis, Rick Chambers, Dave Hill, Jeremy Mackey

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Give to the Max Day a Huge Success

Support for Second Harvest North Central Food Bank went through the roof on Tuesday’s Give to the Max Day. According to, in 24 hours, $14 million in charitable donations went to over 3,400 Minnesota non-profit organizations, including over $20,000 to Second Harvest North Central Food Bank. This additional support could not have come at a better time, since the need for hunger relief grows every day due to the recession.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from this promotion. People were calling to ask if Second Harvest was part of the campaign and how to access it. We even had several people come in to the food bank and use our computers to make their donations. Donors were spurred on by the match that was offered and by the good coverage by the media.

According to a story in the today’s Star Tribune, the $500,000 match will only be .04 cents on the dollar, but that still adds up to feeding extra people here at Second Harvest. The match encouraged more people to give at a time of great need.

Many people throughout the state supported hunger relief organizations and Second Harvest Food Banks in particular. Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul received the most donations overall and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth was ninth. These two food banks, along with Second Harvest North Central in Grand Rapids and three other food banks in Minnesota are part of the Feeding America network, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization.

The need is great this year. There is no sign of the recession lifting in the communities served by the food bank. In addition to large numbers of the poor and working poor, many newly unemployed people are exhausting their resources and coming to Second Harvest and their partner agencies for help.

Food shelf use in the region continues to increase as the recession continues (despite reports otherwise) and unemployment stays high. Compared to the first three quarters of 2008, household visits to food shelves in the region served by Second Harvest North Central Food Bank are up 13%. People who were able to get by on their own before, are now finding they need help meeting basic needs. As we enter the winter home heating season, we expect even more people will have to turn to food shelves to put food on the table and keep the house warm.

It is clear that in tough times like these, Minnesotans respond to help their neighbors in need.

St. Andrew’s Church Helps Feed the Need

Confirmation students and leaders from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids volunteered at Second Harvest on Wednesday, Nov. 18th and have the distinction of being the first volunteer group to help “Feed the Need” this holiday season.

Students cleaned and labeled cans, repacked some nutritional products and un-cased and stacked several food items for the Itasca Holiday Program food boxes.

It takes the work of many hands to provide for thousands of people in need in our area.  Thanks to groups like St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Confirmation Students, Second Harvest is able to “Feed the Need” during the holidays and all year long. 

St Andrews Confirmation group

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Give to the MAX today

Spread the Word!  Support Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Give to the Max today (Tuesday) from 8am until 8am tomorrow, Wednesday, November 18th.

Especially this year, we need your help to feed thousands of people in crisis, our friends and neighbors, in north central Minnesota. 

All donations made between 8am today and 8am tomorrow will be eligible for a portion of $500,000 from several Minnesota Foundations including the Blandin Foundation.  And - Thanks to the Blandin Foundation there are NO FEES for this transaction.  100% of your donation comes right to Second Harvest. 

Go to and support Second Harvest today.     


Monday, November 16, 2009

Itasca Farm Service Helps Feed the Need and the birds too

Starting today, Itasca Farm Service will help Second Harvest Feed the Need this holiday season. From November 16 through 21st, when customers purchase a 50 pound bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds at a special price, Itasca Farm Service will donate $2.00 to the Itasca Holiday Program.

Join Itasca Farm Service in Feeding the Need and help provide holiday food boxes to Itasca area families in need. The community will benefit and your birds will thank you.

Itasca County Farm Service 900 NW 4th Street Grand Rapids, MN (218) 326-4102

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Feed the Need Today

Today Second Harvest Food Bank launches our 15th annual Itasca Holiday Program. The theme this year is “Feed the Need” and the message couldn’t be more appropriate thanks to the dire state of the economy in northern Minnesota.

Second Harvest’s Itasca Holiday Program provides food boxes and new toys to Itasca County families in need during the holidays. This comprehensive program eliminates duplication of effort by multiple human service providers and engages the entire community to provide a brighter holiday season for friends and neighbors living with limited resources.

The need is great this year. There is no sign of the recession lifting in the communities we serve. In addition to large numbers of the poor and working poor, many newly unemployed people are exhausting their resources and coming to Second Harvest and our partner agencies for help.

Holidays are an especially stressful time. Add the cost of winter home heating expense and people living on the edge are thrown into crisis. Thanks to a caring community, we are able to “Feed the Need” during the holidays and throughout the year.

For more information on four ways to help “Feed the Need” check out our website:

Feed the Need web bar

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hard Times for Struggling Families

Food shelf use in our region continues to increase as the recession continues (despite reports otherwise) and unemployment stays high. Compared to the first three quarters of 2008, household visits to food shelves are up 13%. People who were able to get by on their own before, are now finding they need help meeting basic needs. As we enter the winter home heating season, we expect even more people will have to turn to food shelves to put food on the table and keep the house warm.

One in eight Americans struggles with hunger. In Minnesota, 11% of our children live in poverty and 33% of children receive free or reduced lunch, according to the Minnesota Kids Count Data Book 2009. Children are especially vulnerable and suffer long term consequences from hunger and poverty. The current economic crisis will negatively affect the health and education of many of our children for years to come.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hunger Action Month was Action Packed!

The final events of Hunger Action Month were Bloomer’s Garden Center Scare Away Hunger Scarecrow Making at the garden center on September 25th and 26th and the Grand Rapids Itasca Area CROP Walk on Sunday, October 4th. Many local people came together to fight hunger at these annual events.

Bloomer’s 5th Annual Scare Away Hunger included students from Southwest and St. Joseph’s Elementary Schools. Families and individuals were invited to assemble scarecrows for their home or business for a donation of either $20 or the equivalent in food. Thanks to the efforts of the great people at Bloomer’s and the event sponsors, over $860 and almost 100 pounds of food was raised to support hunger relief in Grand Rapids.

Walkers in the Grand Rapids CROP Walk on October 4th had several options of routes from about one mile to six miles. Most of the approximately 50 walkers took the long route and ended up wet from rain. The area churches and individuals who participated raised over $5,000 for hunger relief locally, nationally and internationally.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Applebee’s Pancake Breakfast for Hunger Action Month

On Saturday, September 19th, over 125 people took action against hunger by eating pancakes at Applebee’s in Grand Rapids.  More than $1050 was raised at the event.  Thanks to all the volunteers who cooked, served, waited tables, or cleaned up.  Thanks also to Applebee’s for the opportunity to raise much needed funds to fight hunger.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Retired Educators Take Action Against Hunger

Retired Educators from Itasca County packed 624 commodity food boxes on September15th at Second Harvest.  This lively group is the third of the three that pack most of the 2,000 plus commodity food boxes distributed by Second Harvest every month.  There is a friendly competition between the groups and they  work hard to make the goal each month.

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Thanks to all our dedicated volunteers for taking part in Hunger Action Month and every other month of the year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don Messick Receives 2009 Hunger Action Award

Don Messick from Lakes Area Food Shelf in Nisswa/Pequot Lakes is the 2009 Hunger Action Award recipient.  Don began working with Lakes Area Food Shelf in 1991.  Since that time the food shelf has moved and grown under his dedicated leadership.  Don’s career was in the grocery business and he transferred his skills to feeding hungry people in his retirement.  Now age 89, Don continues as the key volunteer at Lakes Area Food Shelf.   Congratulations and thanks to Donald Messick, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank Hunger Action Award Winner 2009.

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Don Messick, 2009 Hunger Action Award winner with Lakes Area Food Shelf Board President Lou Timmerman and Second Harvest Operations Manager Justin Linnell.  The award was given at the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank’s annual food shelf conference at the Blandin Foundation on September 11, 2009.  The event was held in conjunction with Hunger Action Month.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Alliance Church Takes Hunger Action

Members of Grand Rapids Alliance Church participated in Hunger Action Month by packing 480 commodity food boxes (10 pallets) on Thursday, Sept 10th, to be distributed to seniors and children in the region next month.  Alliance is one of the groups that meet here monthly for fellowship and volunteerism.  Thanks to groups like Alliance, Second Harvest is able to distribute over 2,000 Commodity Supplemental Food Program boxes every month of the year.   September HAM 09 004  September HAM 09 002

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Thanks Alliance for your doing your part in Hunger Action Month!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Zion Men take Action Against Hunger

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Hunger Action at Second Harvest

The men of Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids worked hard on Tuesday, Sept. 8th packing 720 boxes (15 pallets) of commodity food for area seniors and children. This group of men meet at Second Harvest once a month for fellowship and service to the community. They don't need a special month for hunger action!
Stay tuned to see how many boxes the Retired Educators and Alliance Church produce next week!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September is Hunger Action Month!

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, in conjunction with Feeding America, announces the second annual Hunger Action Month, a nationwide call-to-action effort to mobilize people everywhere to get involved with ending hunger in America.


One in eight Americans struggles with hunger. That’s why Feeding America and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank are asking everyone to take action during Hunger Action Month and Give a Little, Feed a Lot.

Throughout September, join millions of other Americans in giving a little of yourself …money, time, voice … whatever you can … to feed the hungry in your community.

The goal of Hunger Action Month is to mobilize the public to help feed the people in need, right here in our own community, who don’t have the resources to provide for themselves. This September is our opportunity to create a movement that has a real and lasting impact on our efforts to help our neighbors. Very high unemployment, cuts in work hours and increasing poverty are causing more and more people to turn to Second Harvest and our network of partner agencies for hunger relief. We need help now, more than ever.

The smallest gift can make a big difference to those in need. Each dollar donated to Second Harvest Food Bank provides up to five meals for someone in our community living at risk of hunger. A five dollar donation provides at least 15 meals. Second Harvest can make a little money feed a lot of people.

Participants in Give a Little, Feed a Lot can commit to volunteer, advocate, organize a food drive, or donate to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Local events to coincide with Hunger Action Month include:

· Donate your lunch promotion: Donate what you normally spend on lunch for a day, a week or a month, whatever you can. We will make sure it feeds a lot.

· Pampered Chef demonstration and fundraiser on September 16th at Second Harvest from 2 to 4pm

· Applebee’s Pancake Breakfast September 19th, Grand Rapids Applebee’s 8-10am

· Bloomer’s Garden Center Scare Away Hunger Make a Scarecrow event Sept. 25 and 26th

· The Grand Rapids/Itasca Crop Walk is scheduled for October 4th.

· All events are designed to raise funds and awareness of hunger issues and the important role Second Harvest has in hunger relief in the area. For more information on Hunger Action Month or any of the events, contact Second Harvest at 326.4420.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gerald Stejskal 2009 Outstanding Senior Volunteer

On Friday, dedicated volunteer Gerald (Jerry) Stejskal was named Outstanding Senior Volunteer at a celebration at the Itasca County Fair. One of two outstanding seniors presented with this year's honor, Jerry has been a volunteer at Second Harvest since 2002. He showed up one day at the old food bank building looking for ways to help and he has been volunteering at least twice a week ever since.
Jerry can be depended on to do whatever is needed; stock the food shelf, pick up donated bread, work in the re-pack room, assemble boxes for the holiday program or carry out for people coming for food. He is a core member of the "Pie Guys" working every Monday and Thursday mornings to stock the food shelf.
Second Harvest relies on people like Jerry who give of their time to help others. We couldn't provide food for thousands of people every week without the support of many volunteers.
Congratulations Jerry - Super Volunteer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Missing Meals

During the summer we raise awareness about the stress on low-income families when children are at home and not getting meals at school. Children are missing the lunch, and often the breakfast, they receive at school every week day. Food shelves and other hunger relief organizations help provide those missing meals.

Another way to think of missing meals is the gap between the meals people provide for themselves through wages or other earned income, the meals provided by government sources like food stamps, school meals and WIC, the meals provided by charity such as food shelves and food bank programs and the amount of food required to meet minimum standards. A study done by Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank in St. Paul, an released in March of this year provides county by county data on how large this gap is in Minnesota. Check out to see the full report.

The report shows that in the seven counties served by Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, individuals who’s incomes are at 185% or less of the federal poverty guidelines, provide between 59% and 65% of their meals through their own cash resources. Public sources: federal food stamps (SNAP), school meals, summer feeding, WIC, Commodity programs (Mac & Naps, TEFAP, and state food shelf funding, provide between 15% and 26% of their meals. Non-profits like food shelves, community meals, afterschool snack programs and other food bank programs provide between 4% and 6% of the meals required.

The gap between these food sources and minimum food requirements are the “Missing Meals”. In north central Minnesota, the gap is between 8% in Mille Lacs county and 17% in Aitkin county. Our challenge is to find ways to fill these gaps and provide people with adequate food.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rotary Truck Visits Walker Club

At the annual Pass the Gavel event on Monday, June 29th, members of the Walker Rotary Club had the opportunity to see the new Rotary Hunger Relief Truck up close and personal. Members and spouses met at the Lucky Moose for dinner and to “pass the gavel” from Roxanne Olson to the next club president, Ronald “Skip” Duchesneau . Claudette Holly, member of the Walker Rotary Club and Rotary District 5580 Foundation Chair, updated the club members regarding the project. Claudette was instrumental in the Rotary Hunger Relief Project as she encouraged the grant applications and helped shepherd the Grand Rapids Rotary Clubs and Second Harvest through the process.

The truck was parked at the event for all to see the result of the collaboration between area Rotary Clubs and the Rotary District. The Rotary Hunger Relief Truck is a rolling billboard for the organizations that came together to make the truck a reality. The Walker Rotarians gathered alongside the truck for a photo, leaving space in the crowd for “Walker” to show. Each club that participated in funding the truck is listed in the signage on both sides of the box.

It was gratifying for Justin Linnell, Operations Manager, (who drove the truck to Walker) and me to be able to talk to the Walker Rotary Club about the project and to thank them for their early participation in the project.

Walker Rotary Club with Rotary Truck

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rotary Hunger Relief Truck visits sponsoring Rotary Clubs

Area Rotarians got to see the completed Rotary Hunger Relief Truck when it was on tour in June. Rotarians were invited to visit the local food shelf and see the Rotary Hunger Relief truck delivering food to their local agency. Stops were made at Lakes Area Food Shelf in Nisswa where the truck was sponsored by Central Lakes Rotary, Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army, truck sponsored by Brainerd Sunrise Rotary, and International Falls Hunger Coalition, truck sponsored by International Falls Rotary.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bremer Banks Taking Action Against Hunger

Bremer Banks are Taking Action Against Hunger by teaming up with Feeding America Food
Banks in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin to end hunger! For every$5 donated, Feeding America food banks can purchase and distribute $45 worth of food and grocery products to individuals and families in need. 100% of donations collected are distributed to regional and local food banks and food shelves in Bremer communities.

In addition to collecting funds for Feeding America Food Banks, including Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Bremer employees are participating in hunger relief volunteer opportunities. Today, June 3, four Brainerd/Baxter Bremer staff assisted with MAC & NAPS commodity distribution at the Salvation Army in Brainerd.

Thanks to Bremer for this great effort on behalf of Feeding America Food Banks in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rotary Hunger Relief Truck On The Road

Food deliveries to non-profit hunger relief organizations in north central Minnesota are now more efficient thanks to Rotary Clubs and other donors in the region. Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, the region’s Feeding America Food Bank, was the recipient of $61,000 from six area Rotary Clubs, an individual Rotarian and Rotary District 5580. Additional funding from Feeding America and Hallett Charitable Trusts made up the $119,000 needed for the 26’ refrigerated truck. The truck arrived in March 2009 and signage was applied by Edward Eck Designs in May. This vehicle is now on the road delivering food to agencies served by Second Harvest Food Bank five days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Hunger relief is needed now, more than ever before. The current economic crisis is causing increasing numbers of people to seek help from local food shelves and soup kitchens. The truck could not have come at a better time, according to Sue Estee, Executive Director at Second Harvest. “In order to respond to the spike in need our agencies are experiencing, a larger, more efficient delivery vehicle is vitally important. We can haul larger loads and make fewer trips to deliver food to hunger relief organizations in the seven counties we serve,” she says.

The Grand Rapids Rotary Clubs provided the impetus for the new truck, according to Steve Arbour, member of Grand Rapids Centennial Rotary Club and chairman of the 2008 and 2009 Reverse Lottery Committee. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Rotarians and the Rotary Clubs that participated in this project. It was definitely a team effort that involved many Rotarians from Grand Rapids and all across the region.”

After a rigorous application process, the Second Harvest Truck Project was chosen by the Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Centennial Rotary Clubs as the recipient of the 2008 Reverse Lottery fundraising event held that March. The $25,000 raised at this event became the seed money for applying for additional funding from the other six Rotary Clubs in the area served by the food bank and for matching grants from the regional Rotary District 5580.

Rotary Clubs in Walker, International Falls, Central Lakes (Pequot Lakes) and Brainerd Sunrise have also contributed to the Rotary Hunger Relief Truck. A Grand Rapids Rotarian made an individual contribution. Two grants from Rotary District 5580 brought the Rotary contribution to $61,000. Grants from Feeding America and Hallett Charitable Trusts made up the balance of the $119,700 needed to purchase the 2009 4400 International Truck with a 26’ refrigerated cargo box.

Edward Eck of Eck Designs, Marble, MN, created the design and applied the signage for the truck. Ed and his father, Phil, donated their time (on the weekend of opening fishing) to apply the signage on the truck. Ed’s wife, Jennifer, assisted with producing the extensive signage on both sides of the 26’ box, endgate and doors. The design consists of large scale Second Harvest, Feeding America and Rotary International logos on the upper portion of the sides and back of the white truck. On the sides, below the logos, in a green and orange “swoosh”, are the names of the six contributing Rotary Clubs, Hallett Charitable Trusts and Feeding America.

Every weekday the Rotary Hunger Relief Truck drives a regular route in the north central region. A typical day could be Deer River, Northome, Big Falls, Little Fork and International Falls or Hill City, Onamia, Milaca and Princeton. Each stop is at a local food shelf, commodity distribution site or other community hunger relief program. Over 31,500 individuals seek emergency food assistance from 145 food bank member agencies. This year, due to the economic crisis, rising unemployment and high costs for basic needs, this number is likely to increase by more than 10%. Many area food shelves are already seeing double digit increases in the numbers of people coming for food.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hunger Doesn't Take A Summer Vacation

Children are at increased risk of hunger in the summer when school is out and they are no longer receiving lunch and possibly breakfast at school. Many of the schools in this area have free and reduced lunch participation of 50% and more, indicating that the majority of children are living in homes below or slightly above the poverty level. These families are already struggling to make ends meet. Children need to eat. Having them home all day puts an even bigger strain on the family budget.

The general public assumes that food shelves and other non-profit hunger relief organizations feel the most pressure from clients in the winter, especially at the holidays. But in reality the need is great all year, and the summer is particularly difficult because community support drops off. At the same time, families with children at home in the summer visit food shelves and soup kitchens more frequently in order to meet their increased need for food.

There are some summer feeding programs for children available in the area, but they are few and far between. Children in isolated rural areas are unable to access these programs and depend on their families for food. Helping these families is a real challenge.

Have you ever noticed un-identified children hanging around a large picnic or party in your local park or community center? They may be children from the area who are looking for a meal wherever they can find one. Hard as it is to believe, we have real hunger in our communities. Please feed these kids and support the efforts of Second Harvest to end hunger.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stamp Out Hunger

On Saturday May 9th, you can help “Stamp Out Hunger” by participating in the National Letter Carriers Food Drive. This is the largest one day food drive in the nation.

This year, more than ever, we need your help to meet the ever increasing needs of people coming to our food shelves. The current economic crisis is hitting people in north central Minnesota very hard. Unemployment is rising rapidly. People are in difficult straits. Help us provide hope to our neighbors and put a bag of non-perishable food out by your mailbox on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gardeners Help the Hungry

Gardeners can help fight hunger in their community by planting more and donating extra produce to a local hunger relief organization. The Garden Writers Association Foundation promotes the Plant A Row for the Hungry campaign. “Gardeners can make a difference” by growing extra produce and donating it to a local food bank, food shelf or soup kitchen.

The Plant A Row website outlines a step by step program for conducting a local campaign to encourage the gardening community to organize and donate fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers to food shelves, food banks and soup kitchens.

Fresh produce is highly valued by food shelves and by those who rely on food shelves to help meet their basic food needs. Many food shelf recipients are home bound or live in apartments or other situations where growing their own produce is impossible. Produce is expensive to purchase, so those living with scarce food resources may not be able to afford this healthy and nutritious food. Donated produce is very welcome in these households.

If you don’t want to organize a local Plant A Row campaign, donating your own garden excess is just fine. Many gardeners, like me, love to grow things and we may not be able to use all the vegetables and fruit we produce. I have a tendency to overdo it at planting time, thinking, of course I will be able to use all those prolific pole beans and summer squash, beautiful multi-colored bell peppers and eggplant. In August, my bushel basket runneth over with more food than my small family can eat. Instead of stressing over how to use or preserve all the bounty, I bring it in to the food shelf for people who may not have the space or physical ability to garden for themselves. It is so satisfying for me to grow food for people.

So go ahead, gardeners, grow everything you want to! Grow extra on purpose and donate it to your local hunger relief organization. Check out the Get Help tab on our Second Harvest website for locations and contact information for our member food shelves and soup kitchens in this region. Give them a call to find out how much they can accept and to arrange a time to drop off your bounty.

It’s finally spring – get out there and garden! It is good for you, for the environment and for your neighbors in need.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Value of Volunteers

Volunteers are treasured every day at Second Harvest but we take the opportunity of National Volunteer Week (April 19-25) to put a value on the time that is given to the food bank. Every month between 800 and 900 volunteer hours are logged by volunteers at Second Harvest and the Grand Rapids Food Shelf. Last year, 10,400 total hours were recorded.

According to the Independent Sector the value of volunteer time is $20.25 per hour for 2008. This value is based on the average hourly earnings of all production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Independent sector takes this figure and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.

This huge gift of time illustrates how crucial volunteers are to the work of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank. The staff of 10 people could not distribute over 3 million pounds of food to more than 30,000 people in north central Minnesota every year without the hundreds of people who volunteer to help get the work done.

A huge Thank You goes out to all the people who volunteer to re-pack food at the food bank, stock shelves and help clients in the food shelf, drive the small delivery truck, run food and fund drives, help with the Itasca Holiday Program, distribute the MAC & NAPS boxes, work in the Plant to Plate Garden and assist with Kids Packs to Go. Thousands of people are fed by all these efforts.

The dollar value might be $20.25, but we think our volunteers are priceless.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

From the front lines at the food shelf

The numbers of people coming for food assistance are up. As unemployment rises, people who have never needed help meeting their basic needs are finding themselves in a terrible position; they need to ask for charity in order to feed their family.

The 30 plus food shelves served by Second Harvest North Central Food Bank are reporting alarming increases in the numbers of local people coming for help. These aren’t people passing through or coming here for the “good social services system.” They are people who were donating their time or money to these same food shelves last year. Try to imagine how difficult it is to walk through the door of a food shelf in your home community and ask for help…. How many people go hungry because they just can’t make themselves ask for assistance?

On Tuesday, a woman appearing confused and distraught walked in the door of the Grand Rapids food shelf, looked around, and went back out to the parking lot. A short time later she walked in and, once again, left without talking to anyone. The third time she came in, she had finally gotten enough courage to go through the process and ask for help. She was treated with kindness and respect and left with several days worth of food for her family. What a terrible situation for this person to be in; educated, formerly employed and self sufficient, but now a food shelf recipient.

This story is being repeated at every hunger relief organization in the country right now. People are hurting. Your neighborhood food shelf is providing food and hope.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Hunger Study 2009, Finding out we know what we know

Like most of the other food banks in the Feeding America network, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank is three-quarters through a comprehensive survey of hunger in America. We are conducting face to face interviews with 300 people seeking help at over 30 different places in our region where people go for food assistance. Places like the Grand Rapids Community Café, Brainerd’s Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, Milaca Area Pantry, Pillager Family Center, Walker Food Shelf, etc.

In addition, all our member hunger relief organizations complete a thorough questionnaire covering everything from how often they are open to how many volunteers they have. The goal is to gather solid statistical information on people seeking hunger relief and the agencies that help them. The information will help Feeding America, Second Harvest and our member agencies to tell our stories; of who we are helping and why they need our help.

I’ve done a few of these face to face interviews myself. I interviewed the mother of a large family who is employed full time but can’t make ends meet on low wages. I talked to many people with big, unpaid health care bills. And not surprisingly, I’ve met several people who just lost their jobs.

The ranks of the recently un-employed are growing and adding to the mix of people who need help feeding their families. In Grand Rapids, the unemployment rate is now at 16.4%. Itasca County is over 12%. It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories of people who have never asked for help before and always thought they could take care of themselves.
The results of this national survey will be released this fall. In the meantime, we listen and gather people’s stories that validate what we already know. People in our communities are hungry. We must help them. We need your help.

Friday, March 20, 2009

FoodShare Campaign Struggles

From Ellen Christmas, Second Harvest Program Manager

Sadly ,our annual efforts to raise pounds and dollars for the Grand Rapids Food Shelf lags far behind where we were last year at this time. In fact, our totals to date hover around $26,000, compared to about $41,000 collected by this time last year. We are not sure what all the factors are but the most obvious is the state of the economy. Donor fatigue and smaller gifts to charitable organizations likely play a part as well. The difficulty lies in that we know demand will continue to rise as we hear of more and more people being laid off from all levels of employment. Already we have seen many first time visits to the food shelf by families who not only ever thought they would need such a service, but in the past were donors themselves.

My request to each and every one of you is to keep the conversation going among your friends, and within your congregations, businesses and organizations about the need to support the safety net the food shelf provides to so many of our local people. Hunger hurts everyone in our community. We need to stand strong and keep working together to find the resources needed to continue feeding as many people as we can - many of them, children.
An interesting parallel to the March Campaign is the Hunger in America Study we are currently involved with. Trained volunteers have been traveling to many of our agencies to conduct face to face interviews with clients. Our goal is to achieve close to 300 surveys. Within the questions people are asked what they would do if the food pantry/shelf they currently use did not exist. Almost all surveyed indicate it would be a major problem for them and they would have nowhere else to turn for help.

So, in conclusion, if you can help or know anyone who has not given a donation, big or small, to the March Campaign, now is the time to ask…
We thank all of our wonderful friends and volunteers who not only support us with their financial gifts, but with their valuable time as well. You are such an important part of everything we do here at Second Harvest Food Bank.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good News for a Change

Amid all the gloom and doom of the economic crisis, it’s important to remember that although the need is increasing, we are helping many people. Last year Second Harvest North Central Food Bank distributed more than 3.3 million pounds of food to directly to low income people and through 145 hunger relief agencies in this region.

Total number of people served by Second Harvest North Central Food Bank entire region in 2008:

· 40,621 household visits to food shelves
· 137,106 individuals served by food shelves including 52,302 children
· MAC & NAPS- 25,048 commodity boxes distributed to children and seniors
· Itasca Holiday Program- 1,700 families received Christmas food baskets
· Kids Café - 1,827 meals fed to children at after school program
· Kids Packs to Go – 12,221 backpack meal sacks distributed to elementary school children

In January of this year, we were able to acquire more donated food than any other non-holiday month in our history. This is great news, considering the increasing need we are experiencing due to the economic downturn. The food shelves, soup kitchens, shelters and other hunger relief agencies striving to help our neighbors are doing the best they can to provide emergency food assistance in these difficult times. Many people are stepping up to help. This is good news for a change.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulus for Hunger Relief

The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was signed into law by President Obama last week will provide much needed stimulus to hunger relief organizations and the people who depend on us. Additional funding of $19.9 billion for the food stamp program that is called Food Support in Minnesota (and SNAP in the rest of the country) will most likely begin as soon as April. This is good news for the more than 31 million Americans who rely on Food Support each month.

For food banks, an increase of $150 million for the TEFAP program will provide more good quality commodity food for food banks to distribute. This additional food comes at a time when we are struggling to find the food resources to meet the increasing needs in our communities.
The stimulus will also provide additional funding for WIC, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and for grants to states for senior nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels.

This is good news for hunger relief organizations as we try to meet the increase in need with limited resources. The safety net is thin, but the stimulus will help fill some of the holes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Itasca County Food Shelf Coalition

Today a new coalition was formed - the Itasca County Food Shelf Coalition. The leaders of the food shelves from Bigfork, Deer River, Warba and Grand Rapids met with the United Way of 1000 Lakes at Second Harvest Food Bank this morning. The new coalition will seek funding from the United Way to meet the increasing needs for emergency food assistance in Itasca County.

The numbers of people receiving food from these food shelves has increased by almost 50% since 2003. The current economic crisis has caused even more people to turn to food shelves for help feeding their families. The Itasca County Food Shelf Coalition will seek funding from the United Way to help meet this most basic of needs - food.

Without increased funding, food shelves will have a difficult time providing enough extra food to for the people who now find themselves needing help. Unemployment, job layoffs, cuts in work hours and the increasing costs for housing, transportation and food are causing more people than ever before to seek assistance. Additional funding for food shelves is crucial this year.

Meeting at Second Harvest today were Kathy Thompson and Kathy Nelson from Deer River Food Shelf, Pearl Barter from the Warba Food Shelf, Bonnie Cole from Northern Itasca Food Shelf in Bigfork, Ellen Christmas from the Grand Rapids Food Shelf, Jody Hane, Executive Director of United Way of 1000 Lakes and me, Sue Estee.

The Itasca County Food Shelf Coalition will continue to provide food to low-income people in Itasca County until all citizens are able to meet their own needs and a safety net is no longer needed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Economic Stimulus

Everyone is talking about the economic stimulus. How will it affect the people that depend on food banks and food shelves? We know that the House passed economic recovery package will increase funding for food stamps known as Food Support in Minnesota and SNAP elsewhere. Putting extra resources into food stamp allowances will put much needed food on the tables of low income people.
There is also additional funding for the WIC program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program. The TEFAP program is very important for food banks. This program provides high quality commodity food for food banks to distribute to food shelves and soup kitchens.
The economic crisis has significantly increased demand at our food bank. New faces are visiting us every day due to rising unemployment, layoffs and increasing costs for basic needs like housing, food and heating.
The Senate's American Recovery and Investment Act includes increased funding for these extremely important programs. It is critical for food banks that these funds are available so that we can meet the needs of low income people who are disproportionately affected by the recession.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Renew America Together

President Elect Obama has called on Americans to join him in a National Day of Service on January 19th. He is asking us to "Renew America Together" not just on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and the eve of Inauguration Day, but to make a committment to on-going service throughout the year. We know that You understand and practice service to others and we sincerely appreciate President Elect Obama bringing national attention to the cause of hunger.

Our new president knows and undertands hunger issues. His mother used food stamps for a short time when he was a child. His campaign published a paper with the Obama/Biden plan for "Tackling Domestic Hunger." He has expressed support for federal nutrition programs that provide hunger assistance, especially for children.

Join us and support Renewing America Together. There are many ways you can learn about hunger in America and in Minnesota. Educate yourself and take action against hunger.

There are many ways to help right here:

  • Volunteer at your local food shelf or soup kitchen. Second Harvest's website has a list of our member agencies. Find out which one is closest to you and give them a call.
  • Call Second Harvest to volunteer at the food bank 218.326.4420.
  • Organize a food drive or a fund drive at work or with an organization you belong to.
  • Tell your local goverment officials that hunger relief policies are important and should be supported.

Join in the committment to service and we will "Renew America Together."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy New Year?

Now is the time we generally look back at the past year and set goals for the next. Last year wasn't all bad, but there were many challenges:
  • More and more people are in crisis and need food assistance
  • The food supply wasn't available to keep up with the demand
  • Food costs rose significantly
  • Fuel costs for food delivery skyrocketed

The good news is that we have incredible support from the community:

  • Many volunteers are willing and able to help
  • Financial donations met our goals
  • Our programs provided food assistance and hope to thousands of people
  • We have one new truck on the road and another coming this month that will enable more efficient, reliable delivery to our 145 agencies

Our goals for 2009 are to acquire and distribute almost 3.5 million pounds of food this year. There are many unknowns that will certainly affect our ability to meet this goal. Food distributors may be less likely to donate, foundations have decreased resources for grants, corporations may cut their charitable donations and individuals, who formerly supported food banks and food shelves, may find themselves in need instead.

There are two things I'm sure we can count on. 1.) Unfortunately, more people will be in need of food assistance before this economic crisis improves, 2.) Fortunately, our volunteers and donors will continue to help as much as they are able.

It will be a good year...together we will do all that we can to end hunger in our communities. Happy New Year!