Thursday, December 8, 2011

Itasca Holiday Program Toy Donations Needed

Due to the overwhelming need in our community this year, Second Harvest is reporting that donations of toys for the Itasca Holiday Program recipient families are running below previous years. More than 1800 gift bags will be filled on Saturday, December 17th but at this time, there aren’t enough donated gifts to provide each referred child with at least one item.
“There is only one week left for toy collection and our bins are only half full of what we will need to provide for the qualified families next Saturday,” says Sue Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director. “Just when we have desperate families with nothing to give to their children for Christmas, people who have been able to donate in the past are cutting back on their own holiday shopping.” The result will be that the gift portion of the Itasca Holiday Program will have to scale back on what can be added to the toy bags and some children may be left out.

Toy donations are being collected at many local businesses and churches. Donations can be dropped at any of the red and green gingerbread giving tree locations, Toys for Tots locations or brought directly out to Second Harvest during regular business hours. The deadline for toy donations is Friday, December 16th at 5pm.

The primary component of the Itasca Holiday Program is a special food box containing traditional holiday foods and other items to provide for several additional meals. A $15 grocery voucher is included for a holiday turkey or other food item that the family would like. Funds are still needed to provide for the food that needs to be purchased to fill 1700 food boxes.

For more information about how to help Second Harvest’s annual Itasca Holiday Program, call 218.326.4420 or visit

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank serves 145 hunger relief agencies in Koochiching, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties. Almost 4 million pounds of food and grocery products were distributed directly to clients or through member agencies in 2010. For more information regarding Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, visit or call 218.326.4420.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feeding Hope

This is the time of year that many people become stressed over all the additional obligations the holidays bring on, such as shopping, baking, parties etc. But many people in our community are under continual stress to meet their basic needs. Mothers go without food in order to feed their children. Seniors have to choose between medicine and meals. Dads have to decide whether to pay the heat bill or eat dinner. People in our community make these hard choices every day.

Second Harvest and our local food shelves and related hunger relief organizations work hard every day to help our struggling friends and neighbors meet their basic need for food. These organizations are also struggling to meet the increasing need at the same time that the donated food supply from the food industry and government commodities is dwindling and purchased food costs more to acquire. The numbers of households coming to local food shelves for assistance is up 13% over the same time last year. Since 2008, the numbers of households coming for help is up over 34%! It is a “perfect storm” of increased need in our community and decreased resources to meet those needs. Despite these challenges, we at Second Harvest are doing our best to bring in enough food to fill the missing meal gap for struggling local families.

As you sit down to a holiday meal or rush around shopping for your loved ones, remember there are many in our community who don’t have the means to enjoy the season. Thanks to the support of this caring community, Second Harvest is able to help those kids, seniors and struggling families. Together we are feeding hope.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The disgraceful state of “food insecurity” in America

A good read and explaination of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank's affiliation with Feeding America. Click below.

The disgraceful state of “food insecurity” in America

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scaling Up Access to Local Food Workshop

All residents of northeastern Minnesota who are interested in local food and food access are invited to a workshop on Tuesday, November 1st from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Itasca Community College and the University of Minnesota’s North Central Research and Outreach Center. Farmers, farmers’ market staff, and agency and non-profit staff who work on issues of health and food access are especially encouraged to attend.

Learn how food assistance programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) can include locally grown foods. Hear about innovative ways that people across the region and across the country are using to connect local food supply (farmers and farmers’ markets) with low-income people who need and want healthy, local food. Network with diverse participants from across our northeast region. New ideas and new partnerships will be forged at this workshop! Together, we can build more and better channels for locally grown food to reach the hands of those who need it.

Presenters will include Rebecca Fee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, talking about the Blue Cross “Market Bucks” program that expands SNAP customers' purchasing power at farmers’ markets. Deonna Bouska of Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA) will provide training for farmers’ market staff and vendors as well as for individual farmers on how to become certified to accept SNAP benefits (food stamps) from consumers. Carol Milligan of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be joined by staff from Itasca County Public Health to discuss the ins and outs of food assistance programs: how they work, who is eligible, and more. Community Action Duluth will lead a session on community food access, focused on how to connect low-income consumers with local food.

A delicious local food meal will be served in the ICC Dining Center. Cost of the workshop, including the meal, is $10. Thanks to the generous support of Blue Cross, that fee is waived for the first 100 people to register. Also through Blue Cross support, travel scholarships of $25 are available for up to 40 participants. Find the registration form and brochure online at; or contact Jane Grimsbo Jewett to register:, 218-845-2832.

The workshop is sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association), Minnesota Farmers Market Association, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Minnesota North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the University of Minnesota’s North Central Research and Outreach Center.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Study: Food Assistance Shifts from “Emergency” To “Chronic”

A new study, Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple, released today by Feeding America finds that many Americans chronically depend on food pantries and other charitable food services to feed themselves and their families. The study provides an inaugural in-depth look at the frequency and duration in which low-income families seek food assistance from food banks and the agencies they serve.

Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple study found emergency food from pantries is no longer being used to meet temporary acute food needs – instead, for the majority of people seeking food assistance, food pantries are now a part of households’ long term strategies to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.

The guiding analysis plan for this study involved the utilization of a pantry frequency question among clients surveyed for the Hunger in America 2010 project. Feeding America is comprised of more than 200 food banks that provide food and groceries to more than 61,000 agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency feeding sites.

“Feeding America was created to ensure individuals and families had access to food in an emergency. This study confirms a trend we’ve been experiencing over the past several years due to a weakened economy--many people are now turning to us on a consistent and ongoing basis to meet their basic nutritional needs,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.

“The report illuminates two important situations that millions of low-income Americans are facing -- first, seniors in need rely on us much more heavily than the general population; and, secondly, people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) need additional help from our food banks. SNAP benefits do not go far enough in helping families meet their basic nutritional needs,” Escarra said.

Among the key findings of the report are:
  • A majority of people visiting Feeding America food pantries (54 percent) have used a food pantry for at least six months of more during the past year.
  • More than one third of all people visiting food pantries (36 percent) report having used a food pantry at least every month within the past year.
  • These clients also report they have used a food pantry for more than 28 consecutive months, on average.
  • Among the elderly, well more than half (56 percent) are long term recurrent pantry users, suggesting that the fixed incomes of elderly may be insufficient to provide for basic needs.
  • The study found seniors are disproportionately affected in becoming frequent or recurrent users. One out of three recurrent clients are 60 years of age or older.
  • Among clients currently receiving SNAP benefits, more than half (58 percent) are recurrent or frequent users.
  • Households that are food secure are more likely to have recurrent clients than other types of households. Although we cannot state this relationship to be casual in nature, it is preliminary evidence that in terms of food security, food pantry use over longer durations may lower the likelihood of food insecurity.

“The findings in this report are further evidence that millions of Americans rely on both federal nutrition programs and Feeding America and other charitable organizations to nourish themselves and their families during our nation’s tough economic times. Funding for all programs that help our low-income American’s must remain strong,” Escarra said.

For more information, go to

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Data Shows the Reality of Hunger for Older Minnesotans

Seniors missing meals are often poor, alone and disabled. Fewer than half of those eligible are receiving Food Support.

Hunger-Free Minnesota ( announced today that new data shows a disturbing picture of Minnesota seniors who are going without food because they don’t have enough money to buy food and still pay for other basic needs.

New data shows the need for senior food support is rising. There has been a 22% increase in senior households receiving Food Support from 2008 to 2010. Of the 88,000 seniors living below the poverty line*, less than half accessed the Minnesota Food Support system. Those working in hunger relief programs say many seniors don’t know they qualify for the Federal dollars.

“In 2010, the average grant for seniors who did access the program was $76.00 a month, a meaningful extension to a senior’s food budget,” said Dr. Stacey Stockdill, president of EnSearch, Inc., the organization that compiled the data. “It’s important that seniors and community members are aware that this support is available. Enrolled seniors can shop at their regular grocery store with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that electronically transfers money to the store when they purchase their food.”

The reality of senior hunger in the state may be surprising. Data shows that 90 percent of seniors accessing the Food Support system today live alone. More than half of the seniors in this group are living with a disability. They are likely to have at least a high-school education, and they may have some college education as well. A typical Minnesota senior receiving some Food Support to supplement their income is white, age 69, widowed or divorced.

Study Highlights
  • Less than half of seniors below the poverty line are enrolled in Food Support
  • 90% of seniors on Minnesota Food Support are living alone
  • Most of the seniors obtaining Food Support in Minnesota are white; 88% are U.S. citizens
  • Nearly half of persons in all senior households are disabled
  • 31% of those on Minnesota Food Support live in Hennepin County
  • 37% live in Greater Minnesota
  • 2/3 of those getting Food Support in Minnesota are women
  • Half of Minnesota seniors have a high school degree or higher
  • 13% of those receiving Food Support have at least some college education
Home-Bound and Hungry
Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota says the food program is important to keeping seniors healthy and independent. “We want seniors in our state to enroll in the Minnesota Food Support Program if they cannot always afford enough quality food to stay healthy. Seniors who are hungry can be out of sight and out of mind. But our data shows that they are in our midst, and that too many of them are not getting the help they need.”

Changes to state regulations have made it easier for seniors to apply. The Minnesota Food HelpLine is a good place to start if there are questions about eligibility or the enrollment process. Seniors include Minnesotans at least 60 years of age. Eligibility is based primarily on income available for food. Seniors who own their own home may still be eligible. The Minnesota Food HelpLine is 1-888-711-1151.

With the graying of Minnesota as the first baby boomers reach 65 in 2012, the numbers of seniors in our state will continue to grow. A continued economic downturn and the Senior Access Index data suggests that hunger among seniors will grow as well, unless participation in food support programs improves.

Unlike the problem of hunger among families with school-aged children, isolation contributes greatly to senior hunger. In rural areas, geographic isolation contributes to the hunger problem when family members move out of town or when a spouse dies. In cities, seniors may keep to themselves with limited contact with neighbors. Data shows that about a third of the seniors who access food support live in Hennepin County. Another third live in Greater Minnesota.

Hunger-Free Minnesota is coalition of community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies, food banks, food shelves and corporate partners including General Mills, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and others. Hunger-Free Minnesota already has obtained $3.5 million in private funding to implement its strategic action plan comprising 22 statewide initiatives aimed at solving the missing meal gap in Minnesota. Initiatives include system-wide changes, new partnerships, education, policy changes, direct grants and other support for local participating organizations. The coalition encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Child Hunger in Itasca County

Do you know that almost one in four children in Itasca County is at risk of being hungry? A new study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011”, also reveals that there are children struggling with hunger in every county in America. In the region of north central Minnesota that Second Harvest serves, 23.4% of the children live in households that are food insecure.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and the fact that almost 25% live in food insecure households is shocking. Hungry children don’t develop properly, are more prone to illness and have lower grades in school.

“Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity” provides data on participation in federal assistance programs for north central Minnesota, by county, in an interactive map format. The study also informs us of the numbers of children in households that are food insecure but not eligible for government programs. These struggling working families rely on the food bank and food shelves for food when they are facing a choice of food or rent, or food or heat.

Continued high unemployment and low wages for working people contribute to the growing numbers of people coming to food shelves for assistance. Second Harvest works hard every day to help provide food to fill the missing meal gap for hungry people in our community. You can get involved in the fight against hunger by checking out Second Harvest’s website at or calling 218.326.4420. Help us end hunger for kids, seniors and struggling working families.

Sue Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hunger Action Month is Here!

Today marks to first day of Hunger Action Month. We encourage you to take part in one of the "30 Ways in 30 Days" which you can find on our website by clicking here.

Hunger is real, hunger is in every county in the United States. Play a role in ending hunger.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, today released a new study which reveals in north central Minnesota, 23.4% of children under the age of 18 are struggling with hunger.

The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011”, also reveals that there are children struggling with hunger in every county in America. Nationally, while one in six Americans overall are food insecure, the rate for children is much higher: nearly one in four children are food insecure.“Children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and the fact that almost 25% live in food insecure households is shocking,” said Sue Estee, Executive Director at Second Harvest North Central Food Bank. “Hungry children don’t develop properly, are more prone to illness and have lower grades in school.”

“Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity” provides the following data for north central Minnesota, by county, in an interactive map format:
  • The percentage of the north central Minnesota population who is food insecure, by county.
  • The percentage of children in north central Minnesota that is eligible for assistance from federal nutrition programs like Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), free or reduced-price school meals, and others.
  • The percentage of children in by county in north central Minnesota that is not eligible for assistance from federal nutrition programs like Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), free or reduced-price school meals, and others.

An executive summary of the report can be found at:

The study is an important tool because it provides critical information for developing strategies to alleviate child hunger. Of the children living in food insecure households, 68% of them are eligible for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and other federal nutrition programs like WIC.

By providing additional details about the face of child food insecurity at the county level, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” will enable food banks, the community based agencies they serve and policy makers to redefine approaches in addressing needs of hungry children and their families and develop more effective policy solutions.

This research is supported by ConAgra Foods Foundation. The ConAgra Foods Foundation funded this research with the goal of advancing the collective understanding of child hunger in America, so that resources at the local and national level could be better leveraged to help children and families in need.

The research is based on “Map the Meal Gap 2011: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level”, supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Play a role in ending hunger

September is Hunger Action Month

Grand Rapids, MN – Second Harvest North Central Food Bank is part of a national movement to raise awareness and take action to help the 50 million Americans who experience hunger.

September is Hunger Action Month. Throughout the month, Feeding America’s nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, including Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, is working to engage citizens to take action and help spread the word about how pervasive hunger is in every community. Feeding America food banks are participating in many ways including: working with state governors to officially declare Hunger Action Month in each state; a nationwide Paper Plate Campaign to collect local messages from food assistance agencies to be read and delivered to members of Congress in Washington D.C.; spreading the word with our celebrity partners via a video campaign that tells the real stories of Americans struggling with hunger; and the 30 Ways in 30 Days campaign to provide individuals exciting ways to participate in their community throughout September - there will be daily “ways” to take action with Second Harvest North Central Food Bank posted on the Hunger Action Month website– along with many additional suggestions for getting involved.

Nationwide, 50 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. But hunger’s impact is felt by many more than the millions living with food insecurity: hunger impacts child development, health and wellness, education, workforce development – our general welfare as a nation. It is also an issue right here in our community – and at the local level, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank works to combat hunger and aid the hungry living right here in north central Minnesota. Throughout September, there will be opportunities to get involved. These opportunities will range from social media initiatives to events, family activity suggestions, and ways to volunteer or support the work Second Harvest North Central Food Bank does every day.

Individuals who want to help spread the word and share our celebrity video with friends or to view the 30 Ways in 30 Days calendar, please visit the Hunger Action Month website at For more information, email

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Debt Ceiling Agreement

Late Sunday night, President Obama and Congressional leaders agreed to a deal to raise the debt ceiling, preventing the government from a potentially catastrophic credit default. The deal raises the debt ceiling through 2012 while making immediate cuts to discretionary spending and creating a special Joint Committee of Congress to propose a plan for further deficit reduction. The House and Senate passed the measure, and the president is expected to sign it on Tuesday afternoon.

While the potential consequences of an unprecedented government default would have been far more devastating for low-income Americans, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank along with Feeding America remains deeply concerned about the potential impact this deal would have on nutrition assistance and other safety-net programs.

Although much uncertainty remains, one thing is clear—the need to effectively communicate the importance of protecting federal nutrition programs is more important than ever.

As a result of the debt ceiling agreement, we will need everyone involved with hunger relief—food banks, clients, local agencies, the government, board members, donors, and partners—to help us carry our message.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Government shutdown will impact those already in need

When the Minnesota state government shut down on July 1st, hungry individuals in our community were put at even greater risk of hunger.
  • Unemployment rates will temporarily increase, putting extra strain on families.
  • Some Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites are being forced to close, as the host schools rely on government funding to run summer programs.
  • Meal programs that rely on government funding are being forced to shut down.
You can help ease the strain on affected families by:
  • Fundraising on behalf of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank or another local hunger-relief organization.
  • Make your donation online.
  • Spreading the word about the shutdown impact on Minnesota families on Facebook or Twitter. Use hashtag #mnshutdown to track the conversation.
  • Donate food to your local food shelf.

Feel free to contact Second Harvest North Central Food Bank with any questions. Thank you for your support during this particularly difficult time for so many of our neighbors.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Hunger is Right Here

Clients wait for the Food Sheld to open its doors.

A year ago, the Grand Rapids Food Shelf extended days of operation from two days a week to five to accommodate for the continued increase of people in need-a reality that is showing no improvement this summer. Considering the unemployment rate for Grand Rapids is more than twice that of the state average, the need is great.  
Today, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and the Grand Rapids Food Shelf help launch the Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless $100,000 Summer Challenge Grant. This means your donation to the Grand Rapids Food Shelf this July will have an even bigger impact because the challenge grant will proportionately match all donations made during the month of July. This is vitial to the Food Shelf in order to keep food on the shelves.
Click here to make a secure online donation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Action is Still Needed to Secure More TEFAP in FY2011

We learned earlier this week that USDA is making $50 million available for the purchase of a variety of canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables and juices. These products will be distributed through TEFAP and will have estimated delivery dates betweek September 2011 and March 2012. Each state will be provided with their fair share of funding, and will be able to order from a menu of products which include tomato sauce, corn, carrots, green beans, peaches, pears, cranberry juice, orange juice, blueberries, potatoes, and oranges. This purchase is being made to satisfy a requirement in the 2012 Farm Bill that USDA purchase $401 million worth of "specialty crops" (i.e., fruits and vegetables) in FY2011.

While we are incredibly thankful for USDA made the decision to allocate this funding for the purchase of much needed TEFAP commodities, much more help is going to be needed to shore up supplies of TEFAP commoditeis nationwide. The inclusion of these products brings total FY11 spending on TEFAP up to $360 million. However, that still level of spending is still approximately $295 million -- or 45% -- below the FY2010 spending level.

As was announced last week, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) are circulating sign-on letters in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, urging Secretary Vilsack to use his administrative authority to direct funds to increase the availability of TEFAP commodities in FY2011.

With our network food banks poised to see a significant decline in the amount of TEFAP commodities received in FY2011, it is critical that all supporters of Feeding America food banks contact their Members of Congress to tell them about the importance of TEFAP and urge them to sign on in support of this letter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Campaign for a Hunger-Free Minnesota

Today is the official launch of Hunger-Free Minnesota, a statewide movement to close the gap of 100 million missing meals in our state.
You, your co-workers, volunteers and clients all will be positively affected by Hunger-Free Minnesota. It’s a three-year campaign with an action plan designed to focus on three areas of meal delivery:

• Increase annual meal delivery in the emergency food network by 50 million meals
• Increase access in the SNAP/Minnesota Food Support Program by 30 million meals
• Increase utilization of infant and child nutrition programs to yield an additional 20 million meals.

Hunger in Minnesota has doubled in five years. One in ten Minnesotans runs out of resources before the end of every month, missing an average of 10 meals every 30 days. That's 100 million meals missed every year, with devastating effects.

Hunger hurts us all. Fight hunger where you live.

For more information please our website or that contains statistics about hunger in Minnesota and information about Hunger-Free Minnesota.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Hunger

In our mission to engage the community to end hunger, we make an effort to direct a lot of attention to the innocent children affected hunger in our communities. In the Grand Rapids Food Shelf alone, 40% of those coming for food assistance are families with children under the age of 18. These families rely on federally subsidized school breakfasts and lunches as well as our “Kids Packs to Go” backpack program. Our backpack program provides snacks to children at risk of going hungry over the weekend. Every month during the school year, our volunteers pack 1635 “Kids Packs” and we distribute them to 16 schools in Itasca, Aitkin, Cass, Kanabec and Crow Wing counties.

Next month, school is out for summer break. While summer vacation is considered to be freedom for many children, for too many other children it means losing the one place that they can count on for a meal. It is estimated that more than 12 million children are at risk of hunger in America.

For most of the country, the face of hunger is surprising. It does not discriminate against age, race, gender, or ethnicity. It affects working families who are forced to make difficult choices between food and basic necessities such as heat, medicine or rent. These families are left struggling to find a way to keep their children fed when these programs end and summer vacation begins.

The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides low-income children with free, nutritious meals during the summer months when school is not in session, is intended to fill this gap. SFSP is the single largest federal resource available for local community organizations that want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program. It is now easier than ever for organizations to participate and provide food for children in the summer through the SFSP.

However, nationally and here in our community, the Summer Food Service Program has been underutilized. Sponsors are needed to help coordinate the program, and agencies are needed to host feeding sites and encourage families to bring their children. One of the biggest reasons that the SFSP is underutilized is that families do not know that it is available for their children. Help is needed in raising awareness of this important program. Together, we can ensure that all children have access to healthy meals this summer. A list of SFSP sites will be complied and posted on our website as soon as it is public knowledge. Visit for more information or call Second Harvest North Central Food Bank at (218)326-4420.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Without Additional TEFAP Commodities, Food Banks May Face Empty Shelves this Year

As Congress crafts a budget that addresses our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank along with Feeding America urges legislators to safeguard nutrition assistance and other safety net programs. The number of families struggling to make ends meet increased significantly during the recession. With unemployment at an average of 12 percent in the region and still hovering near 14 percent in the Grand Rapids area, the need for food assistance continues to grow and food banks are pressed to meet need in their communities.
  • 37 million people – one in eight Americans – receive emergency food assistance each year through the Feeding America network of over 200 food banks, a 46% increase in the number of clients served since 2006.
  • Federal nutrition programs provide support not only to struggling working Americans and their families but also to America’s farmers and the agricultural industry.
  • Feeding America food banks could not provide current levels of food assistance without support from TEFAP and CSFP, nor could we meet added demand if the current funding levels and structure of SNAP and other federal nutrition programs were eroded. We urge Congress to protect essential nutrition safety net programs like TEFAP.
FEDERAL RESPONSE – THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TEFAP): TEFAP is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through organizations like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. Healthy and nutritious food commodities provided through TEFAP are an essential resource for the continued success of Feeding America food banks.
  • TEFAP commodities accounted for 24.7% of the food distributed through food shelves and mobile pantry agencies of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in 2010.
  • Local food banks combine TEFAP commodities with privately donated foods to maximize TEFAP program benefits far beyond the budgeted amount for the program. In this way, food banks exemplify one of the optimum models of the public/private partnership.
  • Declines in Section 32 funding at USDA and less need for USDA commodity intervention in the agriculture economy have resulted in an estimated 50% drop in commodity purchases for FY 2011. This will reduce the volume of food provided by TEFAP by approximately $345 million at a time when our members are already struggling to meet increased need in their communities.
  • If commodity purchases drop as expected by 50%, many food banks will face the prospect of empty shelves beginning this summer and on into the Holiday season. As the demand for food remains high at food banks across the country, TEFAP is necessary for the provision of a steady emergency food supply.
This program is the backbone that supports the emergency food relief work that our food bank network members carry out every day and provides some of the most nutritious food that we distribute. Our challenge is that even as the need for emergency food assistance remains high, the agricultural markets are currently very strong. As a result, there is little need for USDA to intervene in agricultural markets through bonus TEFAP purchases. Unless we take action now to alert Members of Congress and the Obama Administration to the pending dramatic decline in TEFAP supplies, the level of commodity support Feeding America receives from USDA will to drop off significantly – possibly by as much as 50% -- in federal fiscal year 2011 and on into federal fiscal year 2012.

Please contact our Senators and Rep. Cravaack, about the impact a reduction in TEFAP on food banks and call Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at (202)720-3631 and urge him to use his administrative authorities to increase the availability of TEFAP commodities in FY2011.

For more information visit:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thank You for Stamping Out Hunger

This past Saturday, May 14th was the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. The letter carriers in the Grand Rapids area collected 5,718 pounds of donated food. Local letter carriers branch #3610 made a donation of $350 and collected an additional $185 in donations during the food drive. That's a grand total of 6,253 combined pounds and dollars! Thank you to all who participated in the food drive and a special thank you to the letter carriers for collecting all of the food and funds! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Senior Hunger

In respect of the 3.4 million Americans age 65 and older living in poverty, I urge you to reach out to your local food bank and help those at risk of hunger.

After a lifetime of work, many seniors are living on fixed incomes that often force them to choose between paying for healthcare or prescriptions and buying groceries. Because they often need the medication to maintain their health, many elderly Americans must forgo the foods they need to stay healthy. Limited mobility and dependence on outside assistance makes seniors particularly vulnerable to hunger.

Food insecurity among this vulnerable population is especially troublesome because they have unique nutritional needs and may require special diets for medical conditions. According to Hunger in America 2010, among client households with seniors, 30 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care. Many food banks, like the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank operate mobile pantries or partner with food transport organizations to get food to those seniors that need it most.

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, has served north central Minnesota since 1984, feeding thousands of hungry seniors each year. Food insecurity in north central Minnesota on average is 14.4%, including these seniors facing difficulty keeping themselves fed.

Congress is considering significant cuts to the federal budget, putting nutrition assistance for low-income seniors at-risk. Earlier this year, Congress wisely rejected cuts to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which helps Second Harvest North Central Food Bank provide nutritious monthly food packages to 2,319 seniors each month. Cuts to CSFP and other federal nutrition programs would make it much harder for our food bank to safeguard local seniors from hunger, and we urge Congress to protect nutrition programs from cuts.

Feeding America is the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the country. Through its network of more than 200 member food banks, Feeding America serves 37 million hungry Americans annually, including 3 million seniors.

To find out how you can join the fight against hunger, please visit

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


After a lifetime of work, many seniors are living on fixed incomes that often force them to choose between paying for healthcare or prescriptions and buying groceries.

Because seniors often need the medication to maintain their health, many elderly Americans must forgo the foods they need to stay healthy. Limited mobility and dependence on outside assistance makes seniors particularly vulnerable to hunger. Food insecurity among this vulnerable population is especially troublesome because they have unique nutritional needs and may require special diets for medical conditions.

According to Hunger in America 2010, among client households with seniors, 30 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care. Many food banks, like the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, operate mobile pantries or partner with food transport organizations to get food to those seniors that need it most.

With widespread community support we are working with Feeding America to ensure that seniors in need are provided with nutritious food. But charity alone cannot solve senior hunger in our community. In addition to generous private donations, we rely on federal programs, like the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), to supply 2,319 nutritious monthly food packages to low-income seniors, and help connect seniors to other programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to ensure they have groceries to last them through the month. As elected officials make decisions about state and federal budgets, it’s important that our community know that many of our seniors right here in Grand Rapids rely on both federal nutrition programs and food banks to get by each month.

Together, we can provide hope to hungry Americans.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Second Harvest Reports a Record Setting First Quater!

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank had a record setting first quarter by distributing over 1 million pounds of food. By the end of March 2011, Second Harvest had dispersed 1,092,933 pounds of food throughout their seven county region. The need is great in north central Minnesota and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank will keep working to satisfy that need and feed the hungry.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebrity Bowl Reception

Join us today, May 2nd at the MacRostie Art Center for the Celebrity Bowl Reception for the Itasca Empty Bowls Project. The event will take place from 5:00pm to 7:00pm at the art gallery. There will be a silent auction and celebrity bowls will be available for purchase. Enjoy light hors d' oeuvres and beverages while you browse the beautiful selection. All proceeds to benefit the Community Cafe and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Empty Bowls Pre-Event a Success!

KOOTASCA Event Planning Team

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and the Community Cafe would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped make the annual IRC Pre-Empty Bowls event a success! Last week, we received $1,137.00 to aid us in the fight against hunger in our community. Don't forget to join us on Thursday, May 5th at the Sawmill Inn from 11:00am - 2:00pm and 4:00pm - 6:30pm. Call 218.326.4420 for more information.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Minnesotans miss 100 million meals each year

A study released in March by the hunger relief organization Feeding America estimates that Minnesotans struggling with hunger collectively miss almost 100 million meals each year. The Map the Meal Gap study says, nationwide, hungry people would need $21.3 billion to fill the gap in their food budgets.

Research conducted in Minnesota inspired the nation-wide study. Rob Zeaske and his colleagues at Second Harvest Heartland were looking for a better way to understand who needs help. Feeding America ran with that idea. The national study released late last month does two things that hadn't been done before. It estimates the number of people struggling with hunger in each U.S. county. And it puts a number on how many meals people are missing.

"I would say it's a tool for how people can really understand what are the needs in every community, and how do you actually identify closing the gap around the need," said Vicki Escarra, the CEO of Feeding America.

Feeding America researchers relied on census figures, which show 50.2 million Americans live in homes that struggle to get enough food. They took into account things like poverty and unemployment — and then estimated how many people they think are at risk for hunger in each county. On the census form, people also noted how much money they'd need to adequately feed their families. So researchers looked at how much meals cost in each county. From there, they were able to estimate how many meals people were missing.

While many times people are skipping meals altogether, sometimes they are eating a poor substitute for a meal, like a bag of chips.

According to the study, the five Minnesota counties with the highest rates of people struggling with hunger are Clearwater, Wadena, Mille Lacs, Pine and Kanabec. Second Harvest North Central Food Bank services two of these five counties. One problem in Second Harvest's area is that, according to the Feeding America estimates, 35 percent of the 29,600 individuals struggling with hunger make too much money to qualify for federal food assistance. But they still can't always afford to feed their families. After other bills, there's not much left for food.

An additional challenge that Second Harvest North Central Food Bank faces is the actuality of rural hunger. Rural households all across our seven county region suffer from food insecurity –the statistical measurement of hunger or near-hunger-at greater rate than the rest of the state and nation. A number of factors including increasing unemployment, transportation barriers, and access to grocers, contribute to hunger in our service area.  It is a distressing reminder that hunger persists in a state that is a leader in the food production industry.

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank's game plan to fight rural hunger is to: improve access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), extend tax deductions for food donations, and maintain commodity food programs such as TEFAP and CSFP.

We, as members of Feeding America, will continue working to make sure all of Minnesota's 583,710 people who currently struggle with hunger have access to three square meals a day.

For more information on the Map the Meal Gap study, click here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Volunteers Are the BEST!

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and the Grand Rapids Food Shelf would like to thank our many wonderful volunteers. We service a seven county area in north central Minnesota and our agencies span from International Falls to Princeton. We have several programs which work as our facets to distribute nearly 4 million pounds of food to those in need. Our volunteers generously give over 11,000 hours annually to Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and the Grand Rapids Food Shelf. Without our dedicated, hard working volunteers we could not do all we do. Whether it be; driving the mobile pantry truck, stocking the shelves, or assembling "Kids Packs to Go", we thank you for donating your valuable time. You are sincerely appreciated by all of us here at Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and those in need!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

FoodShare Update

Pictured is Ellen Christmas, Second Harvest Program Manager,
Clifton Thompson, past Governor, and Karen Vickberg,
Grand Rapids Food Shelf volunteer.
As of March 30th the Grand Rapids Food Shelf is at 66.5% of the goal of 80,000 with 6,475 pounds and $46,719.00. This week the Women of the Moose, Chapter No. 1378 and the Grand Rapids Moose Lodge No. 2023, made a donation of $1300.00 to the Grand Rapids Food Shelf as a March FoodShare contribution to help feed local families. 

The “Scouting for Food” event took place on Saturday, March 26 resulting in 1,775 pounds of food collected for the Grand Rapids Food Shelf.  Participating in the event were Boy Scout Troop #41, local Girl Scouts and Cub Scout Packs #42 and #51. Boy Scout Troop #41 also made a monetary donation to the food shelf. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts food drive efforts will help local families and count towards Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign.

To make your financial contribution, click here. 

Boy Scout Troop #41

Monday, March 21, 2011

From a Food Giant, a Broad Effort to Feed Hungry Children

By ELIZABETH OLSON Published: March 20, 2011
CONAGRA FOODS, whose social cause is ending child hunger, is taking a new approach to raise the issue’s visibility. The company is starting its largest campaign ever, including a television special, to spur more grass-roots involvement to make sure no child goes hungry.
The Omaha-based ConAgra financed a 30-minute program, hosted by Al Roker of the “Today” show on NBC, to tell the stories of American families who, each day, face the question of whether they will have enough to eat. One 8-year-old boy says, “I eat less so my sisters can have another meal.”
“Child hunger is not a problem, it’s a crisis,” Mr. Roker said in an interview, referring to the 17.2 million children the Agriculture Department estimates are at risk of lacking food. In the special, Mr. Roker, along with an NBC correspondent, Natalie Morales, highlights the effects of hunger on children’s ability to learn and complete their education.
To amplify its campaign, called “Child Hunger Ends Here,” ConAgra also is incorporating social media, including bloggers, digital placement and paid advertising to spread information about the increasing prevalence of child hunger and provide consumers with practical suggestions on how to help their communities.
ConAgra is partnering with Feeding America, a group that supplies 200 food banks. The company has contributed 250 million pounds of food to Feeding America, and donates an average of one million meals a month. ConAgra is donating one meal — up to 2.5 million meals — for each eight-digit package code, on specially marked ConAgra brands, that is entered on the campaign Web site,, through August.
The participating brands include Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Fresh Mixers, Kid Cuisine, Marie Callender’s and Peter Pan.
“The designation on packages is to alert consumers to the issue,” said AndrĂ© Hawaux, president of consumer foods, a division of ConAgra. The company declined to disclose the overall cost of the campaign, which runs from March through the end of May, but said it would spend 40 percent more than last year’s campaign.
Mr. Hawaux said that the effort was “significantly different this year. We dipped our toe in the water last year, and the response was so supportive, we are now increasing opportunities for people to get involved.” Part of ending child hunger, he said, is overcoming the “stigma that has been attached to the issue over a long time,” which is why the company chose a longer special over shorter commercials.
The 30-minute show, Mr. Roker said, “allows the situation to sink it. The problem doesn’t just zip by in the evening news.”
Vicki Escarra, chief executive of Feeding America, said the number of hungry children was growing because of the weak economy.
“There were about nine million children a year ago, and it has grown to at least 14 million, and an increasing number are from middle-class families,” she said.
While customers will buy products with a portion of the purchase price designated for a cause, Mr. Hawaux said, “they don’t expect to pay more for an item, and they won’t accept shoddy products.”
Even so, corporate-cause marketing, linking a company to a social cause, has been questioned lately. According to a study issued last November, many consumers say that brands support social causes only for publicity and marketing purposes, not because they truly care about the issue.
Brands like Pepsi, Nike and Tide have risen above that bar, the study found. Consumers named these companies, as well as Newman’s Own and Coca-Cola, as corporations that place as much importance on supporting a social cause as they place on profit.
Winning over consumers requires “360-degree authenticity, longstanding involvement and adding purpose to a brand,” said Carol Cone, the managing director for brand and corporate citizenship at Edelman, a public relations agency, which undertook the study.
“It is not about slapping a ribbon on a product any more,” said Ms. Cone, who worked on previous ConAgra child hunger initiatives.
ConAgra’s involvement in ending child hunger dates back almost two decades. The company and its foundation have given $35 million since 1993, including a recent $10 million pledge from the foundation.
“We’re trying to balance between social good and the company,” Mr. Hawaux said. “There is an expectation now that companies do good. But can you overdo it? We are committed, but we are a for-profit enterprise and have business goals we need to meet.”
The child hunger campaign, which was created in-house, is encouraging contributions to Feeding America through a mobile campaign. Texting “FEEDKIDS” to 50555 sends a $10 donation directly to the organization. Each $10 donation helps provide 70 meals to children.
The child hunger television special, which premiered on Saturday on NBC stations in 11 markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Miami and New York, will also be seen in about 200 more cities. Throughout the campaign, consumers can use Twitter, #ChildHungerEndsHere, to comment, ask questions or share stories or photographs.
Also, some 20 bloggers, mostly mothers recruited by ConAgra in various communities nationwide, will use Twitter and other social media like Facebook to share local stories and update their activities. And the company is adding a service day to the campaign. Its 25,000 employees can select a day in April to volunteer to work against child hunger — which, ConAgra says, “is as near as next door, or down the street.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign Update

It’s Food Share Month: Chapter of Excellence Donates Money to Food Bank

Grand Rapids, MN, March 9, 2011. The Kootasca Chapter of Thrivent Financial earned The Chapter of Excellence for 2010 award for its outstanding work in addressing local community and was honored with $500 which they donated to Second Harvest Food Bank in Grand Rapids. The Chapter appreciates all that the Food Bank does for the people and the area that they serve. It is FoodShare Month when all of the dollars received by the Food Bank count toward their goal of collecting 80,000 combined pounds and dollars for the month.

Thrivent financial members come together to make a difference through charitable and educational outreach, whether the cause is big or small. The Chapter of Excellence award recognizes all individuals of the Kootasca Chapter who joined together to strengthen our communities.

The Kootasca Chapter members held more than 15 events in the area during 2010 to bring people together for fun, education and helping others. For example, the chapter gave supplemental funds to over 10 benefits, hosted a trip to a Twins’ game, held financial workshops, hosted a night at the theatre, and much more.

As a membership organization, Thrivent Financial is focused on meeting its members’ needs around financial security, as well as helping to improve the quality of life in the communities where members live. As a result, Thrivent Financial creates programs to encourage members who in turn help congregations, schools, nonprofits and individuals in need. Each Thrivent Financial member is a member of one of more than 1,300 local chapters nationwide through which he or she can participate in charitable, educational and social activities.

This Kootasca Chapter’s leadership 2011 board includes: Paula Ross, Peg Christensen, Jeff Frazier, Bill Trembath, Barb Tornes, Dale Juntunen, Kristi York, Dennis Jerome, Melanie Anderson, Gail Ross, and Jim Tarbell. The Finanicial Representatives who act as advisors to the Board are: Bob Affeldt, Dan Fiala, Rob Sjostrand, and Ben Weerts.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit, Fortune 500 financial services membership organization helping approximately 2.6 million members achieve financial security and give back to their communities. Thrivent Financial and its affiliates offer a broad range of financial products and services including life insurance, annuities, mutual funds, disability income insurance, bank products and more. As a not-for-profit organization, Thrivent Financial creates and supports national outreach programs and activities that help congregations, schools, charitable organizations and individuals in need. For more information, visit

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The March FoodShare Campaign is Underway!

During the month of March, the Grand Rapids Food Shelf is joining with over 300 food shelves across Minnesota to collect donations of money and food. These donations will support local efforts to help feed people in need and reduce hunger in our community. When congregations, businesses, schools or service clubs participate in the March FoodShare Campaign, the Food Shelf will make sure that the food and funds collected provides hunger assistance for people in our community who need it most.
This year, the theme of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf’s March FoodShare Campaign is “Do You Know the Face of Hunger?” “Yes you do, because one out of nine families in the greater Grand Rapids area turn to the Food Shelf for assistance,” according to Ellen Christmas, Grand Rapids Food Shelf Program Manager. “In order to keep the shelves stocked and meet the need, we count on local support to provide food and hope to many desperate families trying to keep food on the table. Every effort or contribution, large or small, helps us to continue to feed people. March is the time of year we can leverage additional dollars for the food shelf through donations because of the FoodShare Campaign and the Feinstein Challenge,” she added.
In 2010, the Grand Rapids Food Shelf provided food to an average of 783 households each month. That amounts to over 2,000 individuals served, of which 38% were children under the age of 18. Families turn to the food shelf to provide food and meals that would otherwise be skipped or missed altogether.
The Food Shelf distributed close to 256 tons of food during 2010 and much of this work was accomplished with the assistance of volunteers. “Our work could not be as effective as it is without our gracious volunteers and generous support from throughout the entire community,” says Christmas. Every March, Minnesota FoodShare, a program of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, organizes Minnesota's largest food and fund drive for the hungry. FoodShare is a grass-roots driven food and fund drive that raises awareness about hunger in Minnesota where statistics show 1 in 8 children do not have enough food to eat. All food and funds contributed locally stay in the area but are counted towards the statewide goal of 12 million pounds and dollars. The Grand Rapids Food Shelf has set a combined goal of 80,000 pounds and dollars to be collected throughout March.
Christmas encourages the community to help our local food shelf and says “now more than ever the Food Shelf provides an important safety net to those that are hungry, right here in our community. If like us, you feel hunger experienced by our most vulnerable citizens is unacceptable, now is your chance to act and help us reach our March Campaign goal.” Food and cash donations received throughout the month of March will count toward our goal of 80,000.

For more information contact Program Manager, Ellen Christmas at 218.326.4420 or To make an online donation, click here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Look for Second Harvest North Central Food Bank

Having a strong web presence has become increasingly important in our mission to end hunger. Our parent company, Feeding America, designed an offering that allowed us to deploy an outstanding website, and regularly update it, without assistance from vendors, volunteers or IT staff, for less than $1,500.
With 4 days of training, we completely redesigned our website. We now have the ability to regularly update a professional-looking and feature-rich website with a few click of the mouse and no cost to us.
Along with a clean new look, our website now offers; an agency locator feature utilizing Google Maps which displays the agency location on a map, provides directions and additional information (hours, websites, etc) of our member agencies, the ability to sign up for our newsletters and volunteer opportunities, and an event calendar. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t done so already!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A look at the 2010 Itasca Holiday Program

Itasca Holiday Program 2010 ~ Together we made a difference!
Because of the generous support from the community, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank was able to distribute 1,700 food boxes and gifts to over 1,800 children in Itasca County and Hill City. The food boxes and gifts were distributed throughout the county in Grand Rapids, Hill City, Deer River, Bigfork, Squaw Lake, Keewatin, Taconite, and Inger. The Itasca Holiday Program continues to be a success every year because of the caring community. Thank you to the many individuals who volunteered your time, and/or donated gifts, food, and money. In December, 250+ volunteers logged in over 1500 hours at Second Harvest in order to make it happen.

A special thank you to the following for their support of the Itasca Holiday Program: Lake Country Power – Operation Round Up * Minnesota Power Foundation * L & M Supply * Wal-Mart * Walgreens * Central Square Mall * Reed Drug * Wells Fargo Bank * City of Grand Rapids Employees * Itasca County Court House * Itasca Resource Center * Grand Rapids High School * Connor Jasper Middle School * Grand Itasca Hospital * Berquist Companies – People in Business Care * Area Congregations * PEO Chapter ED * Yarnworks * Grand Rapids Evening Rotary Club * Itasca Vintage Car Club * ICC Nursing, Engineering, and Resource Management Students * Minnesota Conservation Corps * Nashwauk Alliance Church Youth Group * Grand Acts of Giving * Grand Rapids High School International Club * Bovey Lutheran Youth Group * Circle K

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Large last minute donation for the Itasca Holiday Program

Second Harvest would like to extend a BIG thank you to Lake Country Power and the Operation Round Up program for donating $5,000 to the Itasca Holiday Program. It is because of donations such as this, the Itasca Holiday Program remains a success.