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.