Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Calm before the...Controlled Chaos

This is 18th year Second Harvest has facilitated the Itasca Holiday Program. By now, we are, as they say, a well-oiled machine. We feel confident that everything is ready to go and should go off without a hitch. Of course we have planned for any possible hiccups we may encounter along the way.

The food boxes are prepped and ready to be delivered to seven distribution sites, other than Second Harvest. Toys are being dropped off and sorted, lists are being compiled, gift bags are labeled, inserts and grocery store vouchers are printed. Tomorrow the fruit will be bagged and all remaining toys will be sorted. Saturday we will have all of the gifts sorted and selected for each individual child. Because we ordered pre-packed food boxes this year, we will all get a day of rest on Sunday! Yay!

The controlled chaos (distribution of the food boxes and gifts) will begin on Monday in Squaw Lake, Taconite, and Keewatin. It will continue Tuesday in Bigfork, Hill City, and Inger and wrap up with distribution in Deer River and Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

We call it, controlled chaos, because we have a very efficient system in place for distribution in Grand Rapids. We have a drive-thru option for those just picking up a food box, fruit bag, and grocery store voucher which takes place in our parking lot. We direct those who are receiving gifts for children into the warehouse to pick up their gift bags along with their food box, fruit bag and voucher. Our fingers are crossed in hopes that Mother Nature will be good to us during distribution.

Many plates would be bare, and stockings empty, if it wasn't for all of the hard work by so many individuals. It is a huge collaborative effort by our staff, volunteers, donors, local businesses, schools, civic groups, churches, and social workers.

And in the end it is all very worth it. I can assure you there will be tears of joy and appreciation, smiles of delight, and happy hearts - mine included.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Men

This is the season of sharing and kindness. We hear about it everywhere. We read about it everywhere. But, to see it first hand is a very inspiring thing. We are so fortunate to live in such a kind and caring community, but like other things, it is easy to take it for granted. Today, two men reminded me what kindness and compassion are all about.

Man # 1 - This morning we were paid a visit by a local elementary school principal. He came to the Food Shelf seeking food for the family of one of his students. It only came to his attention that this family was in need because the child fainted at school this morning. The child was so hungry that he/she was physically ill. Being a mother of an elementary age child myself, I cannot begin to imagine my child going so hungry.

We sent the principal back to school with food for the family and signed the child up for the Kids Pack to Go BackPack Program, ensuring he/she would get a little extra over the weekends. Before he left the principal insisted on making a personal donation to "cover the cost" of the food provided to this family in need. Now if you ask me, that is going above and beyond.

Man # 2 - As the workday was winding down we were paid a visit by a gentleman carrying a box of toys. As we are in the middle of collecting toys for the Itasca Holiday Program, this is not an uncommon sight to see. However, it did not stop with one box of toys, nor two, nor three. This gentleman and his wife purchased SIX boxes full of toys! We were overjoyed and touched by their generosity.

Now, if you have shopped for a toy for a child recently you know, or have found out the hard way, that just about every toy made these days needs batteries which are almost always "not included". Not only did this couple purchase several hundreds of dollars worth of toys, they took the time to attache the required about and size battery to every single toy they donated. He did not leave his name, and did not want any special recognition for his kind act.

My heart is still smiling from the selflessness and kindness of these two men.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Itasca Holiday Program Seeks to Fill Empty Plates

Grand Rapids, MN – Second Harvest’s annual Itasca Holiday Program enables the community to reach out to their neighbors during this season of sharing.

In conjunction with hundreds of donors and volunteers, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank will help fill empty plates this holiday season. Second Harvest works all year to provide hunger relief to low income people in the region. During the holidays, families already struggling to put food on the table experience extra pressure to make ends meet. The Itasca Holiday Program has been helping these families for the past 18 years. 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 special holiday food boxes are the primary focus of the Itasca Holiday Program. The boxes contain enough food for around five meals. Almost 1,800 food boxes, which include a bag of seasonal fruit and a grocery voucher, will be distributed to referred families, seniors and disabled adults at eight locations throughout Itasca County and Hill City during the week of December 17-21. In addition, children ages 1-12 in the households receiving a food box will be given a gift provided by toy donations through the Gingerbread Giving Trees and Toys for Tots in Itasca County. 

The Itasca Holiday Program is in full effect. The program appeal is out, the Gingerbread Giving Trees are up, and referred families are currently signing up for the program by returning their completed form. The gratitude of the families is evident as they drop off their forms or send in messages and even holiday cards thanking Second Harvest for the food and expressing how little they would have for their children if it wasn’t for this program. 

Many people, including children, are missing meals because their resources cannot stretch enough to cover their basic needs. More than 12% of the population in Itasca County lives in poverty and one in five children live in food insecure households. These are the people that our community wants to help, especially during the holidays.

For more information on Second Harvest, and how to help, contact us at 218.326.4420.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Give to the MAX Day 2012

What an exciting day! Today is Give to the Max Day 2012. So far, we have had 88 unique donors contribute to Second Harvest North Central Food Bank. We are so thankful for the support we recieve from our generous donors. Each dollar makes a difference in the lives of hungry men, women and children in north central Minnesota. A $10 donation will provide enough food for 50 meals.

We are currently in 3rd place on the Itasca County Leaderboard and would love to get to 2nd or even 1st! Remember, you only have until 11:59pm tonight to make your Give to the Max Day donation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eagles Auxiliary Harvest Dinner to Benefit the Grand Rapids Food Shelf

Please plan to attend the Annual Harvest Dinner at the Grand Rapids Eagle’s Club to benefit the Grand Rapids Food Shelf on Friday, November 2nd from 5:30pm – 8:00pm. Tickets are available at the door. $9.00 per adult, $5.00 per child 12 - 4, free for children 3 and under.
Dinner will feature turkey, dressing, real mashed potatoes, and dessert. Please bring non-perishable food items to donate to the Food Shelf. Proceeds will help support the work of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf and the ever-increasing number of families in our area who need food assistance. 
The Eagle’s Auxiliary invites the community to join in their effort to benefit the work of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf whose mission is to assist those who struggle to provide enough food for their families. The Grand Rapids Food Shelf serves over 900 families per month including many children. People come to the Food Shelf because their limited resources cannot pay for all their basic needs. The Food Shelf assists them by providing an opportunity to choose a five day supply of food, including canned goods, frozen items, milk and produce. Support for the Food Shelf is needed now more than ever.
The Grand Rapids Food Shelf is a program of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank. For more information call 218.326.4420 or visit

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Introducing Scheduled Donations for Give to the Max Day Blog - Introducing Scheduled Donations for Give to the Max Day

Posted on 10/16/12 by Dan Moore

Will your board chair be traveling on November 15? Are some of your donors at a team-building retreat that day? Is your staff going to be busy working with donors on Give to the Max Day?
Good news! Your donors can schedule their Give to the Max Day gifts in advance so they won’t miss out!
Starting November 1, donors who visit your organization or project page on will see the options to Make a Donation or schedule one for Give to the Max Day, as sampled below.

This feature allows you to ask donors to schedule their gift ahead of time to be processed on Give to the Max Day, November 15, just like scheduling household bill payments or other transactions.

When your donors click on the link to schedule one for Give to the Max Day (note: the example above shows a different giving day) they’ll see the same donation page they’re used to seeing on, but it will say Schedule Your Give to the Max Day Donation and the green Total Donation box will verify that the gift “will be charged to your card on Nov. 15, 2012.”

After entering the credit card or debit card information and confirming the donation, a donor will see a confirmation screen and will be sent a confirmation email. (See below).

The donor will also have the ability to "stop the donation" prior to the November 15 under their GiveMN account "donations" tab. (See example below)

The Scheduled Giving function will be available on all organization, project, fundraiser, and team pages beginning Thursday, November 1. This function is not available on donation widgets embedded on your own website, another site, or your organization’s Facebook page.
Scheduled donations are deducted from donors’ credit or debit card at 12 a.m. on November 15 and will be eligible for the 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. Golden Ticket, as well as helping their nonprofit advance on the leaderboard. Nonprofit and school page administrators will not receive notification that a gift has been scheduled; they will receive notification when the gift is processed on November 15.
Mark your calendars for November 1 and let your donors know they can schedule their gifts to count toward your organization’s Give to the Max Day leaderboard totals, even if they don’t have time to do so on November 15!
Note that the "pledge" feature of GiveMN's mobile website is NOT the same as a scheduled donation and that scheduled donations cannot be made using GiveMN's mobile version of the website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Give a little, feed a lot

With an estimated 1 in 10 Minnesotans continuing to suffer from food insecurity, the ability of Minnesota’s food banks and local food shelves to serve those in need has never been more important. To help address this critical need within the state, Cub Foods, KSTP-TV, MOM Brands, Dr Pepper, Snapple Group and Dean Foods are partnering to sponsor the Hunger Action Month food drive under the banner “Give a Little, Feed a Lot” during September at all Cub Foods stores in Minnesota.
All proceeds will benefit Minnesota’s Feeding America Food Banks, including Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Channel One Food Bank, Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank and Second Harvest Heartland, as well as dozens of local food shelves.

Cub Foods customers and Minnesota residents can support the cause in two easy ways: by purchasing any dry packaged food or a “Community Cupboard Bag” that is already filled with a complete meal and placing it in the specially marked donation bin in the store. Another simple way for customers to donate is rounding up their grocery bill to the nearest dollar at the checkout register and donating the change. All food bin donations will benefit local food shelves and customer cash donations will go to their food bank.

“Far too many of our fellow Minnesotans struggle with putting food on the table each day,” said Cub Foods President Brian Audette. “Cub Foods is extremely thankful for our partnerships with these great organizations and we look forward to working with them as we fight to end hunger in our local communities.”

Helping Fight Hunger One Bowl at a Time
MOM Brands is also offering breakfast lovers a unique opportunity to stock up on their favorite cereal while making a donation during Hunger Action Month. Throughout September, customers can look for special 2 for $5 pricing on select Malt-O-Meal® cereals and 4 for $5 on Better Oats® brand instant oatmeal. For every Malt-O-Meal brand cereal or Better Oats brand instant oatmeal purchased during Hunger Action Month, the Malt-O-Meal Company will make a food donation, with a goal to donate one million breakfast servings to families in Minnesota.
For more information visit:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hunger Action Month: Speak Out Against Hunger this September

Grand Rapids, MN – August 30, 2012:  It’s an issue that almost 49 million people in the US have to face on a year-round basis – but during the month of September everyone can do their part to help raise awareness on hunger in our country.
This September, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Feeding America, and its network of 202 food banks across the county are encouraging people to participate in Hunger Action Month and Speak Out Against Hunger. The initiative is an effort to mobilize the public to raise awareness and take action in support of domestic hunger relief.

Events include everything from asking businesses across the country to light up their buildings orange (the symbolic color of hunger) to having a national wear orange day (Sept. 6).
The issue is of particular importance in north central Minnesota where 1 in 8 people are at risk of hunger. Nationally, there are almost 49 million who struggle with hunger – including 16 million children.
“If everyone would wear orange and speak out for the hungry that are largely hidden and silent, our community would begin to notice that hunger is a problem that we need to take action to end,” says Sue Estee, Executive Director of Second Harvest. “They are our neighbors, co-workers and even family members.”
We encourage everyone to do their part this month to help bring awareness to this issue and help eradicate hunger in our country.

Speak Out Against Hunger by doing these simple tasks this September:
·         Take action online.

§  Find Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Feeding America on facebook and hit “like.”

§  Donate your facebook status to hunger

§  Share a hunger fact with your friends

·         Take action at Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.

§  Volunteer

§  Take a tour

§  Speak out by filling out a paper plate at Second Harvest to send to your local elected officials.

·         Take action in person.

§  Wear orange on Sept. 6

§  Speak up for national nutrition programs by sending a postcard to your elected official

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, please visit
Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit Find us on Facebook at or follow our news on Twitter at

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank serves 145 hunger relief agencies in Koochiching, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties.  Just under 4.4 million pounds of food and grocery products were distributed through those agencies in 2011.  For more information regarding Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, visit or call 218.326.4420.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Proposed food stamp cuts could push Minnesotans off the program

 by Julie Siple, Minnesota Public Radio
July 13, 2012

 ST. PAUL, Minn. — The $500 billion farm bill making its way through Congress concerns those who work with hungry Minnesotans.

The House Agriculture Committee voted Thursday to pass its version of the five-year bill, which would cut food stamps by $16.5 billion over the next decade, largely by tightening eligibility rules. About 80 percent of the farm bill funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The cuts would have big consequences for some of the more than 520,000 Minnesotans who receive food stamps, state Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said. Some would become ineligible for the program.

"What it means is a number of Minnesotans will no longer have access to food, food that they need keep those children in school and doing well in school, to keep our seniors from having to make hard choices between paying their rent and buying the food they need," Jesson said.

That's because the bill curtails categorical eligibility, an option that allows states to adopt looser requirements for food stamps.

In 2010, Minnesota raised the income limit to 165 percent of poverty, or $38,033 for a family of four. Minnesota also eliminated an asset test, so food stamp recipients can still have assets like a car or a savings account.

Food Insecurity
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 • Hunger and help move out to the suburbs
 • Farmers' markets adapt to high tech food stamps

 The House bill would force states to follow stricter income guidelines and give applicants an asset test to determine eligibility.

"It would mean that a senior citizen who perhaps had saved $4,000 for burial costs would no longer be eligible," Jesson said. "It would mean that a young mom who's working and has kids at home, but has to have a modest car to get to her job, she wouldn't qualify for food support for her family."

Such cases fed a contentious debate in the House Agriculture Committee. Underlying that debate was a philosophical question: How poor should one be to qualify for food stamps?

Advocates for the hungry say allowing people to keep some resources can help them get back on their feet quickly. But supporters of the House bill say the food stamp program has grown too big.

Although the recession has contributed to the number of people on food stamps, loose eligibility rules have helped pushed up the food stamp rolls to a level the nation cannot afford, said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"The original idea of food stamps is that if you lose your job, you spend down your liquid assets, and when you run below $2,000 in cash, you get some food stamps," he said. "The current way the system works, you can have $100,000 sitting in the bank, and if you're unemployed, you can get food stamps. It's a total waste of money. It's like a bad joke."

Rector points out that the asset test doesn't count burial plots. He argues that food stamp applicants should have to take such a test, even if some people who need help are denied benefits.

"I'm sure you can find one or two, or a dozen, or a hundred very sympathetic cases like that," he said. "But you're also going to find tens of thousands of people that are now taking assistance under this program who don't really need this."

Deborah Huskins, an area director for the Human Services and Public Health Department in Hennepin County, said cases of people who don't need food stamps acquiring them are not common.
"The people who come to us are quite, quite poor," she said.

When people apply for food stamps, they come to Huskins' department. She said she doesn't see people coming in to apply for food stamps who have lots of savings or extra resources.

"This is a last resort," she said. "Most people who apply for assistance really would not like to be applying for assistance."

State officials do not know how many people would lose benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 1.8 million Americans would become ineligible if the House bill became law.

The fate of the Farm Bill is unclear. House Republicans leaders appear reluctant to bring it to the floor before the month-long August recess. Even if the House passes the bill, it will need to be reconciled with the Senate bill, which makes far smaller cuts to food stamps.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Take Action Against Hunger - Watch a great video!
Bremer Bank kicks off the annual “Taking Action Against Hunger” campaign today with a special video they created that includes dance performers “Rhythmic Circus” and a custom song to promote taking action and supporting the campaign. Bremer will donate $1 to the Feeding America Food Banks in Minnesota (including Second Harvest North Central Food Bank) for every view of the video up to 15,000 views or $15,000!

Check out the video

I guarantee it will make you smile while you take action against hunger in our region.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Second Harvest North Central Food Bank is outraged by today’s vote by the House of Representatives to slash hunger relief spending by nearly $36 billion. The food bank is already stretched to the breaking point trying to keep up with increased need. Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, would be devastating to our community, and there is no way charities like ours would be able to make up the difference.

“SNAP is targeted at our most vulnerable: 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled person, and 85 percent have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty line. Deficit reduction is an important national priority, but it must not be undertaken without regard to our national values and it must not come at the expense of our most vulnerable.”    Sue Estee, Executive Director

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

U.S. food stamps helped reduce poverty rate, government finds

By Sabrina Tavernise
New York
April 10, 2012

WASHINGTON - A study by the Agriculture Department has found that food stamps, one of the country's largest social safety net programs, reduced the poverty rate substantially during the recession.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, reduced the poverty rate nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policymakers.

"SNAP plays a crucial, but often underappreciated, role in alleviating poverty," said Stacy Dean, an expert on the program with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group that focuses on social programs and budget policy.

Enrollment in the food stamp program grew dramatically during the recession and immediately after, rising 45 percent from January 2009 to this January, according to the USDA website.
The stimulus package pushed by President Barack Obama and enacted by Congress significantly boosted funding for the program as a temporary relief for families who had fallen on hard times in the recession.

But the steady rise tapered off in January, when enrollment was down slightly from December, a change that Dean said could signal that the recovery was having an effect even among poor families.
In a year of elections and rising budget pressures, social programs such as food stamps are coming under increased scrutiny from Republican legislators, who argue that they create a kind of entitlement society.

In an email to supporters Monday, April 9, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., called the increase in food stamps a "highly disturbing trend."
He said he had seen a sign outside a gas station in his district alerting customers that food stamps are accepted.

"This is not something we should be proud to promote," he said.

Friday, March 30, 2012

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and Feeding America Food Banks like Second Harvest in Grand Rapids MN are taking this opportunity to promote the healthy food choices that food shelves and other hunger relief providers have to offer.  People are usually surprised to learn that fresh produce is almost always available from local community food shelves.    The amount of produce available from food banks has exponentially increased in the last several years greatly increasing the quantity and variety of fresh nutritious food given out to food shelf recipients. 

This year USDA has partnered with 80+ national organizations to promote healthy eating messages to their constituencies.  Feeding America is a National Strategic Partner in the MyPlate program and we are pleased to have the tools available to promote healthy eating to our clients.   Check out all the great information on healthy eating at

Many food shelves are able to provide nutrition education to participants thanks to the University of Minnesota Extension Community Nutrition Educator program called Simply Good Eating.  Nutrition educators work right in the food shelves and provide samples and recipes that encourage participants to try new foods and learn cooking techniques. 

Food banks are providing much more than the cans of donated foods that were traditionally distributed.  These days we are diversified into fresh produce, perishable dairy, meats, frozen foods and the non-perishable canned and boxed food.  Healthier diets lead to healthier children and adults.  This is an outcome we all can benefit from. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Food Security

Jesse Seave
President, Curry Without Worry

Imagine this scenario: You are hungry. It's been a long day, and you just pulled into the shopping center, planning to grab dinner at your favorite noodle house. You've already decided what you are going to order, what appetizer you are going to get, and what you want to drink. You might even splurge and get dessert, but you will wait and see how you feel after your eat. Sounds pretty normal, right? Nothing too extreme about this picture.
Ok, now, let's spin it. This time, when you walk in, I step out from behind the counter and inform you that you wont be able to eat here tonight. I explain that it's just not possible, and really, there is nothing I can do. You should leave. Furthermore, I explain, you won't be able to eat anywhere tonight. All restaurants are closed -- but just to you. You look around and see that others are eating, but food is out of reach for you, and you alone. And you're hungry.
For most of us, that doesn't sound like a great night. When we're hungry, we expect to eat. In fact, we expect to be able to eat whatever we want.
Eating when we are hungry -- or, as many of us like to say, when we are "starving" -- is easily taken for granted. It's so normal for us to get food when we want it, and most of us find a way to get it when we need it. However, more people than you might realize, and maybe even someone you know, does not have this luxury. Food insecurity exists in every single county in the U.S. If you aren't one of the people struggling to find food to eat, I can assure you that someone geographically close to you is, at this very moment, actually starving.
This is no small deal. This is a huge deal! After all, what is more important to your survival (and your family's survival) than food? This hunger issue has a lot to do with unemployment levels, the economy in general, and indeed with the personal financial and life choices of individuals. Still, the bigger picture indicates that in this land of opportunity, for many, it's just not working out.
This isn't your fault, or mine, but it is a real chance for us to help. You don't need much money to help; you just need time. You can volunteer, you can fund raise, or you can literally wait at the checkout stand at your local grocery store until you see someone who is using food stamps, and offer to chip in. It's always going to be easier to look the other way, but when someone looks the other way with you, it will be too late. If you have the power to make a difference now -- even a little bit -- consider yourself lucky, and go for it.
I know that all anyone needs to be generous and thoughtful is a little push. People are good, and want to help. But it's often hard to know where to start. I say, start simple, with the obvious: with the people in your everyday world. Picking up the check for someone who is obviously in need will not only help put them on track, it will give you the joy that lies in helping others who are facing the hunger issue.
And if you are someone facing hunger insecurity right now, I assure you, there is help out there for you, and huge groups of people thinking about how to most effectively remedy the hunger issue. You are not alone, and there is a hot meal around the corner. Hang in there.
Feeding America. Gundersen, G., Waxman, E., Engelhard, E., & Brown, J. Map the Meal Gap, 2011.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

8 Facts About Poverty That Will Blow Your Mind

Sid Mohn
President, Heartland Alliance

With campaign season in full swing, it seems everyone has a panacea for what ails us. And while I wish such a simple solution to the division of our indivisible nation existed, the reality is more complicated, requiring first and foremost that we understand the gravity of the situation.

This month, I gave a speech as part of the TedX series on this very topic. This post is adapted from that talk, hoping to shed light on the reality of poverty in America -- that it's everywhere, has no age, race or creed, and affects us all, whether we live in poverty or not.

The face of poverty is one like Charlene's, a single mom working hard to raise two daughters on minimum wage, with bills for her eldest's asthma medication mounting and an unenviable decision before her -- pay the electric bill or buy food?

I care about Charlene's future -- and her children's -- not just because it's my job or because that's the mission of the nonprofit where I work, but because as a human being, I am inextricably linked to Charlene. That's why I'd like to share eight facts about poverty that will provoke your head and haunt your heart. These facts and stories are not meant to overwhelm you, but instead, inspire you to see the world differently, to see that the fate of one impacts the fate of us all. And ultimately, show how you have the power to impact change on a life in need.

1. Our kids are poor.
At some point in their lives, half of all U.S. children will be on food stamps. This suggests problems of poverty AND hunger. Half -- 50 percent of American children. Right now, a family of three that nets more than $1,545 per month is NOT eligible for the program. It seems unimaginable that fully half of all American children will start their lives like this, but it's true. This cycle must be broken -- for their good and ours.

2. Our adults are poor.
Half of American adults will experience poverty by the time they turn 65. That means half of our neighbors will experience having an income of $22,000 or LESS for a family of four. Adults living in poverty often have a disability or are weathering extremely difficult times -- single moms struggling to raise families, or someone who's contracted a serious disease.

3. Our elderly are poor.
One of every six elderly Americans live in poverty. It's not just about gross income. Many times social security and pension income raise income above the poverty level. But when you take into account how much of their disposable income they spend on health care costs, particularly medication, and housing, they drop below the poverty line.

4. Too many of our workers are poor.
One quarter of the workforce earns poverty level wages. Right now, for a family of four, that's $23,050 per year. These aren't just part-time workers who can't find full-time work. In Illinois nearly 100,000 full-time, year round workers still fall below the poverty line. These are folks who put in a long day at work, yet still can't afford to put a roof over their heads and food on the table, always just one unexpected expense from catastrophe.

5. Our building blocks out of poverty are weak.
The very supports that are needed -- things like affordable housing and health care as well as access to good jobs -- are inaccessible to those who need them most.
  • Health Care: The number of people who lacked health insurance last year climbed to just about 50 million.
  • Housing: The number of families who pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent keeps rising -- increasing 20 percent according to the most recent study -- which raises the risk of homelessness for those families.
  • Jobs: Unemployment is at 8.5 percent. And the average length of time Illinois workers are unemployed has doubled since 2007.

6. Poverty is expensive.
Child poverty costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $500 billion per year -- the equivalent of nearly four percent GDP -- when considering lost earnings potential, crime and health care costs. That's about what the President's budget outlined for defense in 2012.
Care for those without health insurance coverage totaled $35 billion in 2004, which is largely shouldered by taxpayers. Investing in the short-term to solve these social issues can save us trillions in the long run.

7. Poverty CAN be reduced by 50 percent.
Through our research, I know we can reduce the number of those living in extreme poverty by half. (Extreme poverty refers to those who live below 50 percent of the federal poverty threshold -- that means a family of 4 who makes less than $11,000 a year.)
By providing a short-term bundle of services -- housing, health care, jobs and justice -- we can help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty and stay out of poverty for good:
Housing: Making sure everyone has a roof over their head -- a safe place that's affordable. This is key -- a place to call home is the first step.
  • Health Care: If someone is sick, or malnourished, or can't afford medicine, they can't make the journey out of poverty. You have to be healthy to work.
  • Jobs: Work is the backbone of escaping poverty. Folks need the education and the skills to work. We need to help them make that happen.
  • Justice: If someone can't find work because of discrimination, or is being held hostage by a violent situation, they can't be productive. We must ensure justice for those who find themselves ostracized from our communities.

8. Change starts with you.
In today's discourse, there's too much "us" vs. "them." We need to change that focus to "we" -- all united, working together to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a better life. Our country was founded on notions that anyone can pull themselves up from their bootstraps. But our divided nation continues to strip away at the tools needed to grab hold of those bootstraps. We've been negating our proud tradition of believing in the common good.

We can't allow politicians to chip away at the services that keep people fed, housed, and on the road to becoming self-sufficient. We can't allow the nonprofits who work one-on-one with people in poverty to lose their funding and strip them of the ability to help those in need. And we can't continue to see the problem of poverty as someone else's problem. Because we can all make a difference to a life in need.

Take Betty Anne for example. She's struggled all her life with serious mental illness, but she's now living in a subsidized apartment and doing well. Every month when she gets her disability check, she puts a little money in a bag and asks her neighbors in the apartment building to do the same. She collects that money to buy food at the local grocery and makes sack lunches to distribute to people with serious mental illness who are living in the park.

Betty Anne gives back because she can and she knows it makes a world of difference to those folks in the park. She's walked in their shoes, and it's important for her to extend the kindness and care that strangers extended to her when she was alone and on the streets.

You can make a difference too. Educate yourselves about what's needed to help people out of poverty, volunteer at a local organization that's helping people in need, forgo that latte each morning and donate that money to help a family put food on the table and a roof over their heads. And when the time comes, vote -- not just for your interests but for the interests of our whole, divided, indivisible nation.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

10 years of the Itasca Empty Bowls Project - Grand Rapids Herald-Review: News

10 years of the Itasca Empty Bowls Project - Grand Rapids Herald-Review: News: “We’ve got some awesome bowls for the silent auction. The celebrity bowls are just beautiful,” said Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Directo…

Friday, March 2, 2012

Grand Rapids Food Shelf Kicks Off Annual March Campaign

February 23rd, Grand Rapids, MN – Throughout 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 “Be a Hunger Hero.” “Due to the reality that one out of nine families in the greater Grand Rapids area turns to us for assistance, the need is greater than ever,” according to Ellen Christmas, Program Manager of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf. “In order to keep the shelves stocked and meet the need, we count on local support to provide food and hope to many 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 2011, the Food Shelf distributed food to over 2,500 individuals every month. Our current resources cannot meet need for the increasing number of families turning to us for help. That is why we are asking for generous support from the entire community. 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 4 Itasca county 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. 

There are many ways to become a Hunger Hero; donate to your local food shelf, host a food drive, or become a hunger relief advocate by taking action to end hunger.

For more information contact Program Manager, Ellen Christmas at 218.326.4420 or

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

MinnPost - Hunger campaign targets new poor and the elderly

A new SNAP awareness campaign kicks off next week. Check out this great article for more info.
MinnPost - Hunger campaign targets new poor and the elderly

Monday, February 6, 2012

USDA Announces Latest Actions to Combat Fraud and Enhance SNAP Program Integrity

Strengthened Measures Help Fight Fraud in Nation's Most Critical Nutrition Assistance Program

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2012 – USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced first quarter results for fiscal year 2012 in the effort to identify and eliminate fraudulent retailers from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). From October 1 through December 31, 2011, USDA staff took final actions to:
 • Sanction, through fines or temporary disqualifications, more than 225 stores found violating program rules; and
• Permanently disqualify over 350 stores for trafficking in SNAP benefits (i.e. exchanging SNAP benefits for cash).
 These enforcement actions are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste and root out fraud and abuse in federal programs, including SNAP. While fraud is a relatively limited problem in SNAP – the violating stores represent less than ½ of one percent of more than 230,000 food stores authorized to redeem benefits – no level of fraud is tolerated. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service conducts ongoing surveillance and investigation, to find bad actors and remove them from the program. In fiscal year 2011, FNS reviewed over 15,000 stores, and permanently disqualified over 1,200 for program violations.

"I'm pleased to report today to American taxpayers the first quarter results of our anti-fraud efforts in 2012," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "Americans expect and deserve a government that ensures their hard-earned tax dollars are managed with accountability and integrity. We are committed to ensuring these dollars are spent as intended - helping millions of people in need through tough economic times until they can get back on their feet."

USDA is building upon strategies recently announced to further strengthen anti-fraud efforts in the retailer application process. To help reduce the number of disqualified stores that return to the program by falsifying information in their applications, USDA is announcing new measures to strengthen the program:
 • Increasing documentation required for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits to better verify their identity and assure their business integrity. High-risk stores are those located at the site of a previous disqualification.
• Verifying high-risk stores to confirm application information. High-risk stores are those located at the site of a previous disqualification. Store owners found to have falsified information with the intent to hide ownership or past violations will be charged, disqualified and may be liable for a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for as long as 5 years or both.
• Continuing to notify state departments and federal agency partners about violators to better protect our public programs. This includes information on program recipients with suspicious transactions at stores known to be trafficking for further investigation by States.
 In addition, USDA will soon publish a proposed rule strengthening sanctions and penalties for retailers who commit fraud in SNAP. USDA's new Fighting SNAP Fraud website ( will also help raise awareness of the issues and provide a direct portal to report suspicious activities.

"Fraud is not a static concept – we know that where there is a will to commit malfeasance, bad actors will try to find a way," said Concannon. "That's why USDA is constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve. The comparison I frequently make is in the area of cyber security. The need for continuously updating information security measures is frequently noted in the private sector, because hackers and other bad actors are always looking for ways to exploit systems."

"However, it is important not to demonize SNAP participants and retailers when referencing fraud because the vast majority of people participating in the program, both retailers and SNAP participants, abide by the rules. Our goal is to eliminate fraud and we will continue to crack down on individuals who violate the program and misuse taxpayer dollars," Concannon noted.

Concannon announced new anti-fraud activities in December. Today's announcement continues the USDA's commitment to promote integrity in SNAP, in order to assure the public's confidence in this critical nutrition assistance program that serves over 46 million low-income and working Americans.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that in addition to SNAP include the National School Lunch Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program. Taken together, these programs serve as America's nutrition safety net.

Program fraud complaints of any kind may be filed with the USDA Office of Inspector General; contact information is found at: Fraud may also be reported to the appropriate States. Phone numbers are available at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Enough for All Event scheduled for January 18th and 19th

The Enough for All Campaign is a series of multifaceted events, held in several congressional districts in Minnesota.  Each event focuses on learning and building awareness on the realities of poverty, local community engagement with elected officials, visual and performance art on the theme of Enough for All, and a call to action.  The common thread throughout the campaign is this theme:  "We believe there is enough for all to have enough, if we all do our part." 

Two events will be held in Itasca County.  The first event will be held on Wednesday, January 18th from 6-8:00pm.  It will start at the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center at 6:00pm.  Members of Circles of Support will take the stage for a moving performance illustrating their experience of living in poverty through words, lights, and sound.    After the performance, at 7:15pm, there will be a reception at the MacRostie Art Center featuring a traveling art exhibit depicting “Enough for All,” which is artistic expressions from local students of what “Enough for All” means. The second event will be held on January 19th, from 4-8:00pm at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Rapids.   This event will start out with learning stations where attendees can learn about poverty and resources for ending poverty, followed by a rice bar meal.  At 6:00, there will be a poverty analysis, followed by a panel discussion with area legislators at 6:30.  At 7:30, a Minnesota Church Ladies video will be shown, followed by a call to action at 7:45.  These events are being sponsored by A Minnesota Without Poverty, KOOTASCA Community Action, Circles of Support, Blandin Foundation, MacRostie Art Center, ElderCircle, KAXE and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.

Both of these events are free and open to the public.  Free childcare will be provided on Thursday, January 19, 2012.  To reserve a spot for dinner and/or childcare or for more information, please call Kootasca at 218-999-5883.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon announces food support coalition

St. Paul, MN – Recognizing the growing need for Minnesotans, particularly seniors, to eat nutritiously to maintain their health, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced the launch of the Minnesota Nutritious Food Coalition, a public-private partnership to raise awareness and increase participation in the federal Food Support program, and provide guidance on means of better serving Minnesotans in need of healthy food. Gov. Mark Dayton also proclaimed January Food Support and Nutrition Outreach Month.

The coalition, comprised of experts from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, University of Minnesota Extension, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Second Harvest Heartland, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Minnesota Grocers Association, General Mills Foundation, counties and numerous other state, business, nonprofit and community partners, met today, and will meet quarterly thereafter. Their main charge will be to address food access issues, increase participation in the federally funded Food Support program, identify barriers and areas for expansion, and develop a coordinated outreach effort to ensure all Minnesotans who are eligible for the program have an opportunity to apply for it.

An increasing number of low-income Minnesotans are using food shelves and Food Support, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as Food Stamps. In addition to the health benefits, Food Support is also a significant asset to the economy, as it generates $1.73 of economic activity for every $1 that is spent.

“More than 500,000 Minnesotans access Food Support benefits monthly,” said Lieutenant Governor Prettner Solon, who was instrumental in launching the coalition. “Yet, many more, particularly seniors, are eligible for the program. The guidance, work and support of this coalition will encourage more Minnesotans to take advantage of this program so they can get the nutritious food needed for a healthy lifestyle, not to mention strengthen our local economy.”

Currently, only 65 percent of eligible Minnesotans and 41 percent of eligible seniors, age 60 and over, receive Food Support benefits.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services, which is responsible for the Food Support program in Minnesota, and its partners currently are working to:

• Educate communities about the purpose and use of Food Support
• Increase access to program information and application assistance
• Increase participation, especially among the working poor and seniors
• Share information among outreach agencies about the nutrition benefits, program details and application processes to help those eligible make informed decisions.
• Provide nutrition education programming in schools and community settings by University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Chippewa Tribe nutrition education instructors who focus on stretching food dollars and making healthy choices.

The coalition will bring these efforts together in a coordinated, cohesive effort, according to Lieutenant Governor Prettner Solon. The benefits of doing so are manifold, she noted, and will include:
More participation in the Food Support program, which offers needed nutrition to low-income Minnesotans, which benefits:

  •  Seniors who, with healthy diets, can live independently in their own homes longer rather than in long-term care facilities.
  • Children, who, when well-nourished, have better school attendance and are more focused on learning.
  • All participants who can now access Food Support at many farmers markets throughout the state to purchase fresh, local produce at a low cost

• An economic boost, creating ripples throughout the economy when new Food Support benefits are redeemed:
  • New Food Support benefits trigger labor and production demand, ultimately increasing household income and triggering additional spending
  • Businesses, including grocery stores and farmers markets, that sell food to Food Support recipients benefit.
• Employees whose food needs are met at home may have higher productivity and take fewer sick days for themselves and their children, according to the USDA.

The department has already implemented legislation and taken steps to improve access for Food Support applicants, including:
• Eliminating the asset limit to qualify for Food Support
• Changing the income limit from 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty guideline
• Shortening and simplifying the application, and providing help to those who want it
• Offering a telephone interview as an option during the application process to make it easier for applicants
• Increasing accessibility via an online application, which is in development
• Providing technical assistance to counties working with recipients and applicants
• Coordinating with partners, including General Mills, Hunger Solutions Minnesota and Hunger-Free Minnesota, to develop and implement a statewide outreach campaign designed to increase participation within the senior and newly eligible populations.

“Collaboration among the Minnesota Nutritious Food Coalition members is the key to this effort,” said Lieutenant Governor Prettner Solon. “By combining our efforts at the national, state and local level with leaders in nonprofit community agencies, businesses and all others who touch the lives of potentially eligible Food Support recipients, we can increase Food Support use. That’s good for low-income Minnesotans, good for businesses and good for our economy.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Minnesota Food Bank Deliveries Up 42% in Three Years

Creativity and Capacity Growth Help Meet Rising Food Assistance Needs

Minneapolis, (January 4, 2012) Hunger-Free Minnesota ( announced that its six food bank partners across the state increased their total deliveries of food by 42 percent over a three-year period. The six large Feeding America food banks delivered a total of 61.3 million pounds of food in 2010 to food shelves, food pantries and other food service agencies, compared with 43.1 million pounds in 2008. This data was compiled by EnSearch, Inc., with the support of Hunger Solutions and the six regional Feeding America food banks that are part of the Hunger-Free Minnesota coalition.

“Clearly, the food banks in Minnesota have done an exceptional job of increasing their capacity in the face of rising demand,” said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer of Hunger-Free Minnesota. “However, the food banks also need more resources to continue at this level. Data compiled for Hunger-Free Minnesota shows that there are children and adults who are regularly missing meals in every county of the state. As a coalition, we urge people to fight hunger where they live and to donate to local food banks.”

Data compiled by Hunger-Free Minnesota also shows that food banks have become a larger percentage of the sourced food for all food shelves and food-serving agencies. At the North Country Food Bank, Inc., in Crookston, food distribution increased by 79 percent. This year, the food bank opened a new food shelf in Crookston to provide a more convenient location for many in need. North Country Food Bank delivers to more than 150 direct food service locations but some are not open every day. Lack of transportation is often a barrier for those in poverty who can’t travel long distances.

Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul and Channel One, Inc., in Rochester are two of the food banks that have expanded distribution to increase access and to reach those who may never go to a food shelf. They are delivering food to food shelves and food pantries, but also distribute food to their School Pantry and Summer Food Service Programs, which provide food to children during non-school hours. Second Harvest Heartland also delivers to other food banks in the state, leveraging its significant purchasing power, large storage facilities and well-developed transportation and logistics systems.

Shaye Moris, Executive Director of Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, said the food bank in Duluth has worked hard to increase food rescue at institutions and grocery retailers. “When school systems or retailers have lower-than-expected demand, it’s critical that we’re ready to immediately pick up that excess food. We then redistribute it safely to help those who really need food assistance. It’s so important that we don’t waste fresh food when so many families and adults are going without meals in our state,” said Moris.

The Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank has added a new refrigerated truck designated for a large statewide food retailer capable of large-volume donations. The food bank has also expanded its warehouse significantly through a grant for increased capacity. It also leverages scarce resources by using the normally empty backhaul route of a local trucking company that makes regular deliveries to the Twin Cities.
“These are some examples of the ingenuity our partner food banks employed in increasing their abilities to meet the needs of hungry Minnesotans,” Lucas added.

Hunger-Free Minnesota is coalition of community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies, food banks, food shelves and corporate partners including Hormel Foods, General Mills, Cargill, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and others. The coalition encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.”

More information on how to get involved in fighting hunger can be found at the website
Data Sources
Data compiled by Dr. Stacey Stockdill, EnSearch, Inc., for Hunger-Free Minnesota from data provided by Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank and Hunger Solutions.

Resources (Localized food bank data)
Minnesota’s Feeding America Food Banks:
Channel One, Inc., Rochester
Great Plains Food Bank, Fargo-Moorhead
North Country Food Bank, Crookston Second Harvest Heartland, Twin Cities
Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Grand Rapids
Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, Duluth