Thursday, September 18, 2014

Second Harvest's Public Service Hunger Action Day Success

Last week Second Harvest hosted a Public Service Hunger Action Day where we invited elected officials to tour our facility and to gain more awareness of the food insecurity that is a reality for more than 23,750 Minnesotans in north central Minnesota. There was great representation on the state, county, city, and school board levels with over forty attendees present. The attendees toured the facility and learned about the specific programs Second Harvest currently administers. Education based officials packed Kids Packs that are distributed to children in need through their school and the government focused officials packs NAPS boxes, which are federally funded commodity food boxes for low income seniors.
Support from elected officials in issues such as the Farm Bill, protecting SNAP benefits, and commodity food for low-income seniors is vital in the fight against hunger. There is a lot of work to be done in order to solve the issue of hunger, but great strides are being made.
Thank you, John Connelly Photography for capturing images of this event!
Packing Kids Packs
Tom Anzelc speaks during CSFP information stop
Itasca County Sheriff, Vic Williams asking a questions during the tour 
It was a packed house
Elementary principals, Ken Decouster and Sean Martinsen speak with Grand Rapids City Councilman Ed Zabinski

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Going Orange for Hunger Action Month

As you may know, September is Hunger Action Month and all month long we are encouraging people to "Go Orange" for hunger awareness. This year we were able to turn Old Central School orange with the help of Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power for the purchase of orange lights, and the City of Grand Rapids for putting up the lights. As over 23,500 people struggle with hunger in north central Minnesota, we encourage everyone to take action and help us end hunger.

Thank you, Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power for your continued support of our mission.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hunger Action Month

Meme Wilson loves to have fun.  When she comes to the food shelf to pick up her monthly NAPS box (commodity box for seniors), she jokes around with everyone and her enthusiasm for life is apparent.

Meme had read about Hunger Action Month and the “Go Orange Day” on September 4th and true to form, she showed up in her orange hat and sweatshirt to help raise awareness about hunger in our community of Grand Rapids. She recognizes the importance of hunger relief programs for folks who don’t have enough resources to buy all the food they need to stay healthy.  She expressed deep appreciation for the staff and volunteers at Second Harvest who give her and others a helping hand.
Meme is one of 275 seniors served at the Second Harvest's Grand Rapids Food Shelf each month,  along with over 1,700 adults and a startling 1,300 children in August of 2014.
It is sometimes hard and heartbreaking to know so many of our local people struggle every day with real hunger.  Hunger Action Month is a time to really learn and think about the issue and the solutions to a problem that statistics show is getting worse instead of better. 
Meme lives under some very difficult circumstances, and yet she lights up a room with her personality. She depends on programs that provide her with enough food to live a healthy and independent life by having enough nutritious meals to keep going.  In fact, after leaving the food shelf today, she was going to go home to cut firewood that she gives away to people who can’t afford to buy it.  Go Meme!

Friday, August 29, 2014


Feeding America® Turns OrangeTM to Solve Hunger for 49 Million Americans

Grand Rapids, MN (September 1, 2014) - Hunger advocates from Grand Rapids and across the country will be wearing orange on Thursday, September 4 in an effort to raise awareness of the 49 million people in the United States who struggle with hunger. It is just one of the many awareness events taking place throughout the month of September in recognition of Feeding America's Hunger Action Month - a month-long campaign to help end hunger in our country.

Starting Monday, September 1, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank along with other food banks in the Feeding America network will kick off Hunger Action Month by holding events throughout the country to inspire people to take action to help the millions of people who are food insecure in the United States.

Events include everything from asking businesses across the country to light their buildings orange (the symbolic color of hunger) to food packing events at food banks across the country. Thousands of volunteers are expected to participate in food bank activities throughout the United States.

“We are continuing to see high levels of need even as our economy is recovering. Low-wage workers are the hardest hit and the last to recover,” says Sue Estee, Executive Director of Second Harvest.  “Every day we work to solve hunger. September is the time of year when we strive to get the message out and engage people in our mission of ending hunger.”

According to the USDA, 49 million Americans are food insecure which means they may not know where their next meal is coming from. This includes 16 million children and nearly five million seniors.

Here in north central Minnesota, about 12 percent of the population struggles with hunger, including 8,990 children.

“There is more than enough food to feed every man, woman and child in this country, yet one in six Americans are facing hunger,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “By raising awareness and working together, we can solve hunger."
Some of the events taking place include:
·  Hunger Action Day - Wear orange to support hunger awareness (Thursday, September 4)
·  Light up Orange for Hunger - Buildings around the country will be turning their lights orange throughout the month to show their support. The tree at Old Central School in Grand Rapids will light up orange thanks to Minnesota Power, Lake Country Power, and the City of Grand Rapids. (Buildings that lit up orange in 2013 included: the Empire State Building in New York City, the Nashville Courthouse in Nashville, Miami Tower in Miami, and the Jewelers Building in Chicago.)
·  Public Service Hunger Action Day, September 9
·  Hunger Action 5K, September 20
·  Kids Pack Volunteer Day, September 22

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, please visit


About Second Harvest North Central Food Bank  
Second Harvest North Central Food Bank serves 130 hunger relief agencies in Koochiching, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties. Over 4.5 million pounds of food and grocery products were distributed through those agencies in 2013. For more information regarding Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, visit or call 218.326.4420.


About Feeding America
Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, community kitchens, and emergency shelters across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sandy Hanks and Bill Wheeler named 2014 Itasca County Outstanding Senior Volunteers

The Outstanding Senior Volunteer (OSV) Selection Committee has selected Sandy Hanks and Bill Wheeler as the 2014 OSV award recipients. While all volunteers deserve recognition and appreciation, based on the nominations presented to the Selection Committee facilitated by ElderCircle, these two volunteers have gone above and beyond in service to many area organizations.

Since Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) has been tracking many of Sandy Hank’s volunteer hours, she has logged more than 3,031 hours in more than 20 different capacities. In the past nine years, Sandy has served at many organizations, including the Itasca County Committee on Aging, Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital, Community CafĂ©, and logged many tireless hours reading for the blind on KAXE Community Radio. While bravely dealing with her own recurring medical issues, her positive attitude, affectionate smile, and compassion have not kept her from giving her time and talents to those in need. Also the 2014 recipient of KAXE Community Radio’s “Silent Star Award”, Hanks is described as “having invisibly caused much to happen, creating good for so many, without announcement, hype or flare.”

Bill Wheeler has served in many organizations, including Itasca Holiday Program and RSVP HandyHands, as well as serving with great commitment at the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Grand Rapids Food Shelf. In the 11 years that the RSVP has been tracking his volunteer hours, he has logged more than 3,100 hours in almost 20 different volunteer roles. As quoted from a letter of recommendation, “Bill Wheeler has continued to be one of the most effective and hardest working volunteers in our history since he came through our doors in 2003.” His compassion, generosity, leadership and loyal commitment are great assets to every individual and organization Wheeler comes in contact with.

The annual awards ceremony was held during “Senior Day at the Fair” on Friday, Aug. 15 at 12:30 p.m. when Bill Wheeler and Sandy Hanks were presented with their awards. Their nominations have also been submitted to the Minnesota State Fair to represent Itasca County for consideration of the Minnesota State Senior Volunteer Awards, which will be presented on Thursday, August 28 at the State Fair.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Second Harvest Calls On Elected Officials to Visit Food Bank

Urges Senators and Congressmen to Learn about Hunger In the Communities They Serve

Second Harvest, a member of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, is inviting all elected officials in north central Minnesota to visit the food bank. On September 9, Second Harvest will be holding its first ever, Public Service Hunger Action Day, during Hunger Action Month.

“The decisions made in Washington and St. Paul are about real people and real families, not just numbers on a balance sheet.” Susan Estee said, Executive Director of Second Harvest. “We are working hard to keep up with increased need in our community, but the need doesn’t seem to let up. Elected Officials need to know what we’re up against as they make decisions about hunger-relief programs.”

Second Harvest Food Bank serves a seven county region, where child food insecurity is at 19.4 %. This means that one out of five children does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Nationwide, food insecurity is a problem, but it is also right here in north central Minnesota.

“We want to make sure our elected officials understand the extent of hunger in their communities and how their decisions affect so many people who are struggling to make ends meet.” Estee said. “We see firsthand the importance of nutrition assistance programs to our community as we serve clients in need.”

Invited to this event are; Governor Dayton, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Franken, State Representatives, County Commissioners, Mayors, and City Council members from the north central region. Second Harvest plans to engage attendees with a hunger related activity and further educate them on the impact of hunger in our region.

Throughout the north central region, Second Harvest has over 130 food shelves, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other hunger relief partners that provide several direct service programs for hungry children and the elderly. Second Harvest seeks to show Elected Officials what is being done to combat hunger locally and discuss how they can collectively work to ensure that hungry Minnesotans continue to have access to emergency food.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bremer Bank Meals for Many Campaign Donations Top $95,000

St. Paul, Minn. – July 25, 2014 - During the ninth annual Bremer Bank Meals for Many Campaign, the $2-for-$1 donation match up to $35,000, was met and exceeded once again. In total, approximately $96,000 was raised during the two-week campaign for Second Harvest Heartland, local Feeding America food banks and local food shelves. This total includes an additional $2,100 donated by Bremer as a result of a $1 donation per completion of an online hunger awareness quiz. Bremer’s total donation over the nine years of the campaign has reached $1.2 million.

During the campaign, Bremer employees across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin also raised money by sponsoring bake sales, hosting cook-outs and coordinating food drives.

“We are always so proud to report the donation totals of our annual hunger awareness campaign,” said Pat Donovan, president and chief executive officer of Bremer Financial Corporation. “Last year, we surpassed the $1 million mark in total donations over the history of this campaign and we continue to watch that total grow. Our employees understand that hunger impacts all of us, including many neighbors in our own bank communities. Thank you to our employees, clients and communities that participated in this year’s campaign.”

Bremer Financial Corporation
Bremer Financial Corporation is a privately held, $8.7 billion regional financial services company jointly owned by the Otto Bremer Foundation and Bremer employees. Founded in 1943 by Otto Bremer, the company is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota and provides a comprehensive range of banking, investment, trust and insurance products and services throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Clients include individuals and families, mid-sized corporations, small businesses, agribusinesses, nonprofits, and public and government entities. For more information, go to

A man with a plan

Gary Fitch will kick off his “Minnesota Miracle” walk to help end hunger in Minnesota at 10 a.m. Aug. 2 in International Falls.

By EMILY GEDDE Staff Writer, Ifalls Journal

His tennis shoes are laced up and Gary Fitch is ready to make a difference.

In two weeks, the retired mail carrier will set out on a 300-mile, 30-day walk from International Falls to St. Paul in an effort to end hunger in the state. He’s calling the initiative “Minnesota Miracle.”

“There are too many hungry kids in this state,” he said. “We need to take care of our own. We need to do something about it.”

And he intends to.

At 10 a.m. Aug. 2, Fitch will start his journey at the Bob Walls Memorial Union Hall and invites anyone and everyone to walk him for as long as they can.

“Even if people can walk the two miles to the city limits line of International Falls, that’d be amazing,” he said. “International Falls is the ‘if’ in Minnesota Miracle. If we can start off well, we can make this happen.”

Since the more than two years after the idea of Minnesota Miracle began, Fitch has partnered with Second Harvest Heartland, the largest hunger relief organization in the Upper Midwest, and he has also gained support from the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States. The effort has also gained support from the Koochiching Labor Assembly, which represents unions working in Koochiching County.

““It’s a grass roots labor movement,” he said.

Originally, the walk was set to begin in April, but to allow more time for Fitch to ramp up the behind-the-scenes effort, he moved the start date to Aug. 2. That way, the walk will conclude on Sept. 1 when he will join the labor parade at the Minnesota State Fair.

Fitch also revised his goal of raising $30 million “to something a little more realistic.”
“My goal now is $1.5 million,” he said. “That’s only one penny a mile from 285,000 union workers...That’s attainable. It would allow me to plug $60,000 to $70,000 into the 300 food shelves every year.”

So far, $30,000 has been raised towards the Minnesota Miracle Ending Hunger Fund. The fund, he explained, will be set up as an endowment to generate additional dollars off interest.

“The nest has been built, now I’m working on filling that nest,” he said. “Donated money will never be touched. That’s going to stay there. We’re just going to use the interest.”

Fitch is hopeful Minnesota Miracle generates enough attention to encourage people to donate and get out and walk with him to feed more mouths in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“I may not be able to make the state hunger-free, but I’m just a little old 62-year-old guy,” he said. “I need everyone’s help.”

For more information on how to donate to Minnesota Miracle, visit

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bremer Bank's Meals For Many

For the ninth year in a row, Bremer Bank is partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank and other local Feeding America food banks to help end hunger in our local communities.

Donations made June 16 through 28, 2014 to Bremer Bank will be matched $2-for-$1, up to a total of $35,000! Additionally, Bremer partnered with Software for Good to create an interactive Meals for Many quiz. Bremer will donate $1 for each completed quiz up to $5,000.

Take the quiz here. Make your donation here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Economy surges, yet food stamp demand remains high

Matt Sepic · ·

Minnesota's economy is in much better shape than it was a few years ago. Housing prices are rising, and the state's unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in April - the same as it was a decade earlier, well before the Great Recession.

But nearly 504,000 Minnesotans still rely on food stamps, more than double the number of 10 years ago. For many recipients, that financial assistance isn't enough to keep food on the table.

"This is our new normal. We're not waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel," said Michelle Ness, executive director of the PRISM food shelf in Golden Valley.

"The recession, when it started, we said 'let's give it a few years and let's wait and see.' Well here we are. We're not waiting for some great boom to happen. It's folks who are getting re-employed and they're underemployed."

Ness said her clientele increasingly can and does work, but their jobs don't pay very well. She said the food shelf is still very busy and serves about 500 families a month.
Among the people it serves is a 47-year-old woman who said she cannot work because of medical problems.

Lisa, who did not want to give her last name, said the $80 a month she receives in benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program isn't enough.

"For big things like soups and noodles and stuff like that, it's fine," she said. "But when you run out of milk and eggs and the essentials like juice and stuff like that, it goes real fast."
So she often comes to the PRISM food shelf to pick up additional items.

State Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said underemployment is also part of the reason why so many Minnesotans are still relying on government food support. There are also other factors too.

More people are now eligible for help from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In 2010, the state raised the income limit and stopped counting vehicles and savings accounts against applicants.

Jesson said the state also made a big push to sign up eligible people during the recession.
Food stamp use and jobless rate indexed to 2004. MPR News
"We don't want children, adults, seniors, anyone going to bed hungry," she said. "That's not good for kids who want to go to school to learn, not good for parents who are out looking for jobs, not good for anyone. So that's one of the reasons that we wanted to make sure that if you're eligible for SNAP you knew about it and we made it easier for those folks to get on it."

Even critics of food stamps acknowledge there's a need.

"A lot of people are still hurting, there's no question," said Mitch Pearlstein, founder and president of the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative Twin Cities think tank. Pearlstein, a former United Way board member, said he has seen firsthand how rough life can be for people who are working low-wage jobs.

But although Pearlstein said government should play a role in alleviating hunger, he said the current rate of food stamp use isn't sustainable.

"The government doesn't have the money," he said. "We simply have to find ways of scaling down on government, at least significantly reducing its growth, and we keep on failing."
Congress has tried to scale back food stamp use, and Minnesota's enrollment has fallen 6 percent in the past year.

Colleen Moriarty, the executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, attributes the decline to a drop in efforts to encourage people to seek assistance. When President Obama signed this year's farm bill, bus and radio advertisements for SNAP came to a halt. When those ads were running, people signed up, she said.

"We would see real spikes when we would be out doing that kind of real education to the public about what being on public benefits could mean as far as helping them," she said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Greatest Generation

I met Elmer while visiting a food shelf in Cass County.  He was the center of attention as he picked up his monthly NAPS (Senior Commodity) box and received a few other items like bread and produce.  You could tell that the staff and volunteers really liked Elmer and looked forward to seeing him.  I had a chance to visit with him while conducting a client survey.  He was in his mid-80’s, happy and positive, despite major health issues and the struggle to make ends meet.

He left school by the 8th grade and worked as a farm laborer and bus driver all his life.  He told me several stories about how he enjoyed his time driving school bus.  I’m sure he was every child’s favorite bus driver, so kind and friendly.  I bet he bought treats for the kids on the last day of school.  I had a bus driver like that once.

Elmer lived on less than $500 a month in social security.  He never made much money at the jobs he had over his long working life. Thanks to subsidized housing and food provided by a charity, he was just barely able to survive.  Here is an example of our “Greatest Generation” living in poverty despite a lifetime of hard work. 

It’s a good thing that we have programs like NAPS Commodities, food shelves and soup kitchens for people like Elmer.  But I regret that he has to depend on charity to get enough food to eat.  Our “Greatest Generation” deserves better. 

Sue Estee, Executive Director

Monday, May 19, 2014

Minnesota Partners to End Hunger: Standing up for low income Minnesotans at the Capitol

St. Paul MN—(May 19, 2014)— Today, as the 2014 Minnesota Legislative session came to a close, anti-hunger and poverty advocates and legislators highlighted new policies that will benefit the over 500,000 food insecure Minnesotans. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger hosted a celebration with Minnesota legislators on Monday morning to highlight new hunger-fighting policy.

Over the last two years, the Minnesota Partners to End Hunger Legislative Agenda advocated policies that help to stabilize low-income seniors, and un- and under-employed families with children so they may have access to adequate amounts of food as the recession slowly recedes.

Colleen Moriarty, Chair of Minnesota Partners to End Hunger and Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, praised Senator Jeff Hayden and other legislators for their outstanding leadership on behalf of low income Minnesotans. “Low income Minnesotan’s personal economies are not bouncing back as fast as the rest of the economy after the recession. We are pleased that our leaders are creating policies that will make sure all families will be able to put food on their tables.”

Grass-roots advocates successfully advocated at the Minnesota Legislature for a variety of policies designed to put more food on the plates of hungry Minnesotans:

  •  In March 2013, the Legislature voted to support a bill that added $750,000 in additional support to the Minnesota Food Shelf Program, as a way to relieve pressure on the state’s resource-strapped food shelves, raising the total state funding to $1.7 million for the year. This is the first-ever permanent increase in a legislative allocation to Minnesota food shelves and a testament to the hard work of many anti-hunger advocates.
  • In 2014 Minnesota increased the Minimum wage. Minimum Wage has passed at $9.50/hour by 2016, with indexing of up to 2.5 % starting in 2018 that can be suspended if the economy is doing poorly.
  • Minnesota schools are now directed and funded to expand free school lunch – this would cover the 61,000 children whose families fall into the gap between full price and free. The legislature also eliminates the stigmatizing use of hand stamps and stickers on children if parents have unpaid lunch bills at school.

"It was a great day for Minnesota's children this session when, with unanimous bipartisan support, the bill to ensure that no child goes hungry in a Minnesota school because of a family's inability to pay passed the MN House of Representatives,” said Representative Yvonne Selcer. “I was honored to carry this bill, and am grateful to Legal Aid, Mazon, and the many organizations that worked so hard to ensure passage."

  • Schools are also able to serve Universal Free Breakfast for all students in Kindergarten
  • The legislature has approved a 5 percent funding increase for home- and community-based services, which includes home-delivered meals and nutritional services for seniors and people with disabilities. Home- and community-based services like Meals on Wheels bring nutritious food to seniors and people with disabilities, while also providing general support to Minnesotans who want to remain in their homes as opposed to moving to more costly institutional care facilities. The funding increase will help ensure more people in need will be able to use home- and community-based services, while also providing more equitable wages to the direct support professionals and caregivers who help deliver these services.
  • Farm to Food Shelf is a new initiative that provides a $2,000,000 grant to move surplus edible agricultural crops and commodities from fields to food shelves statewide, working with the six Feeding America food banks that serve Minnesota. Between 200 and 300 million pounds of edible crops are either not harvested or harvested but not sold each year in Minnesota.

“Second Harvest Heartland strongly supported this legislation because we are committed to pursuing innovative ways to bring more healthy and nutritious food to our hungry neighbors,” said Rob Zeaske, CEO, Second Harvest Heartland. “The need is still high in our communities, and we thank legislators for supporting this effort to bring more fresh food to those who need it. We look forward to working with Minnesota’s generous growers to make that happen.”

Advocates poised to continue next session: The hunger and poverty problem is still a concern.

The newly released report from the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs reports that 1 in 4 Minnesotans works in a low wage job. Along with low wages, Minnesotans are also facing high food prices at the grocery store. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger hear from families that need supplemental services such as food shelves. The group is dedicated to assuring that there is an effective and fair safety net so food insecure Minnesotans won’t have to worry about their next meal.

Preview of 2015 Legislative Priorities for the Minnesota Partners to End Hunger:
  •  Assist more seniors and rural Minnesotans with mobility concerns with Mobile Food Shelves
  •  Increase SNAP access at Farmer’s Markets with incentives for fresh produce
  •  Advocate for universal free breakfast at school for students in all grades
  •  Expand access to summer feeding programs

About Minnesota Partners to End Hunger

Minnesota Partners to End Hunger believe that Minnesotans have the right to adequate amounts of food to remain healthy and productive. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger is a statewide network of service providers and advocates working to end hunger in Minnesota by motivating decision-makers to take supportive action on state and national hunger policy issues.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Note from Sandy - Take Time to Listen

This month is set aside to honor the older Americans among us.  I have had to privilege to work with the Senior Population for about 10 years now.  I’ve met hundreds of seniors over that time, and have come to appreciate their value. My life has been touched by so many different smiling faces and kind expressions of “Thanks”. Serving the older generation has taught me many lessons, and gives me a sense of satisfaction.  I have many examples of persons that I could tell you about, but I will focus on a couple.

We were able to help a nice older lady, Shirley, for several years. Shirley was housebound. A volunteer generously offered to deliver a box of food to her each month. Every month before her delivery I would call her to remind her that the volunteer would be coming. It was as if she was waiting to hear from me.  She was so happy to hear my voice, as I was hers.  I would take the time to talk with her each time, 15 minutes or so.  Perhaps it was the only time each month she had outside interaction, I am not sure.  But each time we spoke she would tell me about the “Good Old Days” and raising her seven sons.

She told me of how hard she worked gardening to provide food for them. She experienced several great losses during the years I knew her. She would tell me about her sadness, and how she endured.  And, every time without fail she would thank me over and over how much she appreciated what the Food Bank was doing to help her. I never met her in person, just got to know her over the phone.  Her soft voice told me how kind and how frail she was. Without fail, every month, she would end our conversation with “Good-bye, I love you…” Sadly one month I called her to remind her of her delivery, her son answered.  She had passed away. He expressed his gratitude to me for the help that his mom had received from the Food Bank,  and he told me how I touched her life by being kind and taking a few minutes each month to talk to her. This experience will stay with me forever.

I also met a dear lady named Delores. Every month, without fail she came carrying “goodies” when she picked up her box of food. She would get up early on the day of the distribution, bake fresh brownies, sugar cookies, and bacon wrapped hot-dogs, dipped in butter and brown sugar.  I know this does not sound healthy… but several of the volunteers worked outside, in the cold winter or hot summer. Everyone couldn’t wait until she got there – looking forward to her treats! She would pack special packages for her favorite volunteers and a special package for me to bring home to my young son. Such kindness from someone of little means. She would come wearing a friendly smile, giving out hugs along with the treats. Turns out, we weren’t the only ones she brought treats to. She did this for many in the community, even the gas station clerk. Not only was she generous with the treats, she was generous with her time and limited resources. She was a volunteer driver, helping others in the community that were in need. Our lives were forever touched by this person’s acts of kindness and appreciation for what help she received at the Food Bank.

These experiences taught me many lessons, but most importantly; take time to get to know the older ones among us. They have so much value! Because they are advanced in years, they have so much experience and wisdom. Take time to listen, lend them a helping hand, and be assured that you will be the one leaving with the “gift”.

Sandy McKay, CSFP Coordinator

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

Saturday, May 10th, our Grand Rapids letter carriers were busy picking up food donations from postal customers, resulting in 6,000 pounds of food and $295 in monetary donations for the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. The carriers added another $300 to the total with a donation of their own. Their participation and extra effort during this national one day food drive helped call attention to the issue of hunger and helps fill the shelves of Second Harvest's Grand Rapids Food Shelf. The letter carriers hard work and the generosity of the donors go a long way to help make a better community and feed local families. Thanks to all our local carriers for their support and effort. 
Ellen Christmas, Program Manager

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grand Rapids Letter Carrier's Participate in 22nd Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, Second Harvest’s Grand Rapids Food Shelf will join forces with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to help Stamp Out Hunger in Grand Rapids. Now in its 22nd year, the annual food drive has grown from a regional to a national effort that provides assistance to the millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table. The Stamp Out Hunger food drive, held on the second Saturday in May, has become the nation’s largest single-day food drive benefitting Feeding America’s network of Food Banks.

“We’re incredibly excited for the 22nd year of the Stamp Out Hunger food drive,” said Susan Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director. “We’re asking people along the city and rural routes for their support to make this year the most successful in the drive’s history. It is so easy to make a donation: simply leave a bag of non-perishable food items by your mailbox to help neighbors in need. That’s all it takes.”

The need for food assistance continues to exist in Grand Rapids, and throughout every community in America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 49 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they do not have consistent access to adequate food. Perhaps most alarming is the fact that nearly one in five children in Itasca County are living in a food insecure home.

To participate in the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive in Grand Rapids, residents are encouraged to leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable food items, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, rice or cereal, next to their mailbox prior to the time of regular mail delivery on Saturday, May 10th. Grand Rapids’ letter carriers will collect these food donations as they deliver the mail and take them to Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.

For more information about the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive in Grand Rapids, visit or


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Appreciation for Volunteers

It is April and a time to appreciate many things.  Natural things, like warmer weather and longer days are easy things to feel grateful for because they are so obvious. They affect our mood, positive feelings and happiness. People can also do that for one another, and people who are the best at it, are called volunteers! 

I just spent some time looking up quotes on volunteerism. The quotes ranged from Aristotle to Erma Bombeck, from Ghandi to Emerson - but they all basically said the same thing. The resounding common themes were, you cannot be happy and fulfilled in your own life without doing things for others. You cannot save your time and start to do good later, when later may never come. One person may not be able to everything, but everyone can do something. And it does make a difference!

Volunteers are just plainly un-selfish. They give of themselves and their valuable time, but luckily they also get much back. They know this, and feel grateful for having filled part of their day with work and meaningful things to do. Since they are such good people, I am happy to report that they reap some perks and benefits. 

It is a proven fact that by volunteering you will have a lower mortality rate, increased body function, especially among seniors, and lower rates of depression largely due to the fact that social networks will broaden.  I don’t think volunteers necessarily say to themselves, “I am going to volunteer for the proven health benefits!” But I am sure glad to know these good folks will likely live longer because of their good deeds.

Watching volunteers for many years working one on one with clients in the Food Shelf, I have been fortunate to observe, on a daily basis, the exchange of smiles, tears, hugs and kind words. Volunteers show compassion without judgment. They care about all people, not just some. They are often the glue that holds a community together.   

I could go on and on about how wonderful the volunteers are at Second Harvest. They have enriched my life beyond words. They work on so many things; it is likely they don’t even know the scope and impact of their work. Their volunteer labor is invaluable to helping our charitable organization get food into the hands of people who need it. Not trying to be dramatic here, but, without them we could not exist! Thank you to all of our dedicated, hard -working volunteers.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes:
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
-Elizabeth Andrew

“The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.”
 -Helen Keller

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation's compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain love for one another.”
-Erma Bombeck

Ellen, Second Harvest Project Manger

Monday, April 21, 2014

Map the Meal Gap 2014 Study Uncovers U.S. Food Insecurity Reaching Every County in the Nation

 Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, today released Map the Meal Gap 2014, a detailed analysis of food insecurity for every county in the US.  It is the only study available that provides county–level estimates of food insecurity in the United States.
Feeding America's annual study measures the population affected by food insecurity (defined by the USDA as a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life) and the factors that contribute to need in households across the country. Weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics, poverty levels and unemployment rates are all considered in the Map the Meal Gap 2014 results.
"Hunger is a pervasive and solvable problem plaguing every corner of America today," said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. "By continuing to provide extensive and revealing data like the 2014 Map the Meal Gap study, we will be able to tackle these issues head-on and be armed with the information needed to work towards making sure everyone has enough to eat."
The information is provided in an interactive map that allows viewers to find out how widespread hunger is in their community. The map can be found at
Among the key findings:
  • Counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are more likely to be found in rural areas than in metropolitan regions.
  • On average, food-insecure individuals reported needing an additional $15.82 per person per week in 2012 to buy enough food for their household.
  • Among the fifty states and the District of Columbia, the highest rate of child food insecurity is 29 percent in New Mexico.
  • There are 18 high food-insecurity counties that also have high meal costs - they fall into both the top 10% for highest food-insecurity rates and highest cost per meal - an average of more than one in every five individuals (22%) in these counties is food insecure.
  • Ninety-three percent of counties with a majority African-American population (n=101) fall within the top 10 percent of food-insecure counties. These counties have an average poverty rate of 29 percent, nearly double the national average of all counties (16 percent).
  • The number of American Indian counties that fall within the top 10% of food-insecure counties rose, now representing more than 60% of counties that are majority American Indian.
  • While Los Angeles County, California had the highest number of food-insecure individuals (1.6 million), Humphreys County in Mississippi holds the highest food-insecurity rate in the country at 33%.
Research for the study was generously supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen.
"It should be a wake-up call to us all that nearly 50 million of our neighbors are at risk of hunger in the United States, a country with the most productive farmers helping to feed the world," said Howard G. Buffett, Chairman & CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.  "Research like Map the Meal Gap is critical to organizations like the Feeding America network of food banks and agencies as they work to develop the most effective solutions for addressing hunger in every community in America."
The Map the Meal Gap 2014 analysis was developed by Dr. Craig Gundersen for Feeding America. Food-insecurity rates are based on a state-level model that allows for estimation of the population in need of food at the county and congressional district level. Additionally, Feeding America worked in collaboration with Nielsen to arrive at estimates for food-cost variation by county. Results were reviewed by the Feeding America Technical Advisory Group in order to ensure accuracy and promote transparency.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Importance of Volunteerism

The Retired Educators volunteer group packing NAPS boxes
I have been working as the Repack Coordinator for a little over 2 years now and have seen firsthand how important volunteers are to our success at the Second Harvest North Central Food Bank from a Logistical standpoint.
Each month we produce approximately 2,200 pre packed boxes of food for the Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS) and Mothers and Children (MAC).  This amounts to 63,600 pounds of food needs to be packed every month for just these two programs. 
 Our volunteers come on a scheduled basis four times during the month in groups of 15-20 per session and work for 2-3 hours repacking approximately 13-16 pallets (18,000 – 22,000 pounds) during their shift. 
Not only are they providing a valuable service to our organization, they are visiting with each other, re-connecting with old friends, sharing stories and having a good time while giving back to the community. The majority of our volunteers have retired from their chosen profession(s) and still live in the surrounding area.
We also welcome groups from local businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations as well as families and individuals who donate their time helping us provide food to those in need.  We ask you to encourage others to join the approximately 500 individuals who donate their time and energy each month. 
 With many other repacking projects every month, each requiring numerous hours of labor to complete, this simply could not be accomplished without your help. 
Mark Lantinen, Repack/Volunteer Coordinator

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Great news for Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Nashwauk

Tony Potter / Hibbing Daily Tribune
 By Tony Potter Hibbing Daily Tribune 

NASHWAUK — A major change has taken place at the Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) Food Shelf in Nashwauk. Director Joen Blomberg was hired by vote of the NHN Food Shelf Board to be the nonprofit’s first paid staff member on Jan. 1.

“We needed a point person,” said Publicity Director Karen Peterson. “There is too much work for the average volunteer.”

The ability to hire a paid site coordinator was made possible due to a two-year grant from the Blandin Foundation, she explained. The grant allows the director to earn $10,000 in salary during each year of the contract.

Blomberg said that when the position was offered to her by the board, she was too honored not to accept it.

“My heart leads me to helping people,” she said, adding that she has also volunteered at a Colorado food shelf and done community outreach for churches. “… I love this. It’s my passion.”

Blomberg first got involved with the NHN Food Shelf as the secretary of the board when the organization opened up in November of 2009. She eventually became the site coordinator, and has served as the food shelf director over the past few years.

Blomberg noted that even though her title has changed several times, her duties have remained fairly similar. She said her primary duties consist of ordering food, overseeing all aspects of the operation and implementing board decisions.

Being the nonprofit’s only paid worker provides an added push to work even harder for the food shelf, Blomberg said.

“It gave me motivation, and a lot more responsibility,” she said.

Blomberg said that her previous experiences at the food shelves in Nashwauk and Colorado have helped prepare her for this opportunity.

“I feel that I have a lot of experience that helps me know every aspect of the organization,” she said.

With the added flexibility, the food shelf also has new goals. The hope is to expand the nonprofit’s hours and add delivery to the senior apartments in Nashwauk, Blomberg said.

“We want to get seniors more involved,” Peterson said, noting that seniors make up just 10 percent of the food shelf’s clients. “We want to make it easier for them to get food.”

Peterson also noted that the Blandin Foundation grant can be extended if the following requirements are met: the food shelf needs to increase food access, the population served must closely resemble area demographics, and all regulatory reports need to be filed on time.

“Joen doesn’t have set hours, but she is constantly working,” she said. “She has got a phone call here, an email there and paperwork at home.”

The board is truly pleased with having Blomberg as the food shelf director, Peterson said.

“Joen is just incredible,” she opined.

But the whole seven-member, volunteer board serves as working staff members, Blomberg said.

“Since the beginning, they’ve all held a critical role,” she said. “They don’t just come to the meetings. They are all hard workers.”

And the rest of the volunteers have been just as vital to the food shelf’s every day operations, Blomberg said.

“They are all incredible, reliable and volunteered for more than 2,000 hours in 2013,” she said. “It’s not a one woman show.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April in National Volunteer Month!

We are truly blessed to have such amazing volunteers and supporters of our organization. We could not distribute over 4.5 million pounds of food without our 500+ volunteers. They are the lifeline of Second Harvest. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us fulfill our mission to end hunger in north central Minnesota.

"Volunteers, a precious resource we can not afford to lose."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March in Minnesota...

As March draws to a close, it is still winter here in north central Minnesota. People are still dealing with the high cost of heating their homes as the temps rarely rise above freezing. It seems as though no one is catching a break this year. 

If ever you were thinking about making a financial donation to Second Harvest's Grand Rapids Food Shelf, now is the time. From now until April 7th, all donations will receive a proportional match through the Minnesota March FoodShare Campaign which will stretch your dollar even further.

Help us keep food on the tables of our neighbors in need.

Make your online donation here.

Mail your donation to:
Second Harvest Food Shelf
PO Box 5130
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

30th Anniversary Series - March is National Nutrition Month

Today in our food shelf, the produce table is overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables that are available for our clients to take home.  Peppers, melons, potatoes, carrots and berries are some of the choices.  In the freezer case we have meat including chicken and vegetables.  The refrigerator has 1% milk.  Down the non-perishable aisle you will find beans, canned vegetables, whole wheat pasta and a selection of cereals including whole grain choices. 

Second Harvest Food Bank strives to provide our clients with access to foods that help promote a healthy diet, such as fruits and vegetables, protein, whole grains and low fat dairy.  During National Nutrition Month, Second Harvest, a member of the Feeding America network, recognizes the 1 in 6 Americans who lack access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life.  Second Harvest is a reliable source of healthful foods, delivering thousands of pounds of nutritious choices every week to our clients facing hunger. 

Food insecurity has serious health consequences for children and adults.  Children from families that struggle with food insecurity are more likely to have poor physical health and struggle in school.  Being food insecure can lead to obesity because of limited resources, lack of access to healthy, affordable food, high levels of stress and cycles of deprivation and overeating.
By providing more healthful food, Second Harvest plays a unique and important role in the fight against hunger and the promotion of good health in the communities we serve.  We are proud to be part of the solution to end hunger. 

Sue Estee, Executive Director

Monday, February 24, 2014

30th Anniversary Series - 1 Note from Ellen

When I reflect on the history of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf, which began to serve community members in need back in 1984, I have to think about the thousands of people who have been helped through the last 30 years.  The Food Shelf started as a grass roots effort led by a by a group of compassionate and concerned citizens.  It exists today as a program of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, and continues to meet the needs of people who, through our program, can access food for free at times when they would not be able to adequately feed themselves or their children without our help.  Many feel ashamed that they have to come, and often they choose to leave food items that they are offered, because they believe others may need them more.

Many people do not understand why people need to use a food shelf, or do not believe that hunger is a prevalent problem in our community.  To anyone who has a doubt, I invite you to spend a day in the Food Shelf volunteering and talking to clients.  They are not “those people”.  They are as varied as any group of people can be.  Most of them work at least a part time job, sometimes several, and try their best to get by.  Still, the money runs out before the month is over, and with many essential bills to pay, there is often nothing left for expensive groceries.  Voila – hunger and missed meals!

Volunteers do the bulk of the work it takes to run the Food Shelf and stay open 5 days a week. They are a wonderful group of people who enjoy interacting in caring and positive ways with each and every person who comes through our doors.  Clients most always express their sincere gratitude and relief - not only go home with food, but to feel like others care and our willing to help without judgment.  After all, life offers no guarantees.  Couldn’t any one of us find ourselves in a vulnerable position one day, and be one of “those people”?

Ellen Christmas, Program Manager

30th Anniversary Series

To commemorate our 30th year of feeding the hungry in north central Minnesota we will be doing a series of 30 blog posts. These posts will be from all different perspectives - staff, volunteers, board members, donors, and clients. The first post will be coming soon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Food Banks serving Minnesota unite in asking farmers to pledge to invest an acre

A big factor in battling hunger in rural communities might just be the people who are already feeding the world.

Six food banks serving Minnesota are asking farmers to participate in Feeding America's Invest an Acre program by pledging revenue from their 2014 crop, with the goal of having 1,000 acres pledged in Minnesota this year. The Invest an Acre program is simple: Farmers are asked to visit and pledge the revenue from an acre, bushel or any amount of their 2014 crop to help fight hunger in their own communities.

When harvest nears, farmers will be reminded to go online to create a donation form to bring to their local elevator with their grain donation. One hundred percent of the donation stays in the farmer's community, and all of the money goes directly to buy food for hungry families. The Monsanto Company matches the farmer's donation, dollar for dollar, up to $675,000, doubling the impact.

"Families who live in our rural regions where food is grown face a number of challenges that put them at even greater risk of hunger, including a lack of transportation, more remote social service agencies and tight employment," says Rob Zeaske, chief executive officer of Second Harvest Heartland. "Farmers already play such a crucial role in ending hunger in the state, and the Invest an Acre program gives them the opportunity to combat hunger in their local communities."
Hunger is an often hidden problem that is affecting seniors, working families and children in rural as well as metro areas — one in 10 Minnesotans is at risk of missing a meal on any given day. Invest an Acre is part of a larger initiative to actively engage farmers in combating hunger, Harvest to End Hunger MN.

The second arm of the program is Share Fresh MN, a fresh-produce donation program that accepts unharvested or unsold produce from farmers.

After donating for the first time to his local food bank, corn farmer Gary Pahl of Pahl Farms in Apple Valley, Minn., said, "With everybody's combined efforts, we can make a difference in this world. We can make a difference locally and on a statewide basis."

The coalition of participating food banks includes Channel One Regional Food Bank, Great Plains Food Bank, North Country Food Bank, Inc., Second Harvest Heartland, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

To learn more about Invest an Acre and Harvest to End Hunger MN, visit

About Harvest to End Hunger MN - Every community has "hidden hungry" who are struggling to gain stability during tough times. The six Feeding America food banks serving local regions in Minnesota have joined forces to offer farmers simple ways to help fight hunger in their local communities. Participating food banks include Channel One Regional Food Bank, Great Plains Food Bank, North Country Food Bank, Inc., Second Harvest Heartland, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. Through the program, farmers can donate revenue from a portion of their non-edible crops and/or donate excess produce crops that will go to food banks and food shelves locally. For more information, visit

About Feeding America - Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Area Chefs Unite to Support Second Harvest

A “Chef’s Gala Benefitting Second Harvest” will be serving up gourmet fare for hunger relief on Thursday, January 30th, 2014 at the Timberlake Lodge. Join four of the premier local chefs for a four-course meal of their signature dishes. 
The evening will start with Chef Robert Hansen of Forest Lake serving up a hors d'oeuvre, Chef Jamie Perrington of Wylde Thyme Too! Catering serving a soup, Chef Bob Klein of Timberlake Lodge/17th Street Grill will present the main course with a wine pairing provided by Tony Serratore of Pokegama Plaza Liquor. Barb Schack of Barb’s Korner Kitchen will wrap up the evening by serving dessert.
The entertainment of the evening will be the Celebrity Server auction. These Celebrity Servers may assist in serving the table that purchases them but will primarily act as fundraisers for the event. Jim Cagle will act as the Master of Ceremonies for the event.  
The event begins with a social hour at 5:00pm, Celebrity Server Auction at 6:15 and the first course will be served at 6:45.
Come join the fun and help fight hunger in our community. Seating is limited call Gretchen at 218.326.4420 ext. 24 to reserve your spot at the table!