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."