Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 Itasca Holiday Program

In collaboration 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 providing 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 families have a brighter holiday for the past 21 years.
Special holiday food boxes are the primary focus of the program. The boxes contain foods for traditional holiday meals plus several additional meals. Over 1,800 food boxes, along with a bag of seasonal fruit and a $15 grocery voucher, will be distributed to referred families, seniors and disabled adults in Itasca County and Hill City during the week of December 13 -17. Children ages 1-12 in the households receiving a food box will be given a gift bag provided by donations through the Gingerbread Giving Trees and Toys for Tots in Itasca County. 

For the second year in a row, due to space limitations at Second Harvest Food Bank, the gift collection and distribution will be conducted at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids.  Beginning in early December, Zion will provide space in the Christian Life Center to sort and store the donated gifts.  Volunteer activities related to gift sorting will be held at Zion during the week of December 7th culminating with distribution of food boxes and gifts to Grand Rapids area referred families with children on December 13 and 14. 
Grand Rapids distribution moved to the Zion Lutheran Church last year and not only alleviated the holiday space crunch at Second Harvest but allowed more convenient distribution times for referred families and volunteers.  Once again, families will have the choice to pick up their food box and gifts on two different days, one being a weekend.  “Since so many of our participants are working families, offering the Sunday distribution time helps make it easier for people to pick up their food boxes and gifts”, according to Sue Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director.  “The new Sunday volunteer day also provides more opportunities for people to get involved and help others during the holidays,” Estee added.  Grand Rapids participants without children who qualify for Food Boxes will pick up at Second Harvest usual.

Food box and gift distribution at the other locations in Itasca County and Hill City will go on the same as in previous years.  Referred families from Deer River, Bigfork, Inger, Squaw Lake, Nashwauk, Taconite and Hill City will pick up at the same locations as last year.  Community volunteers coordinate referral and distribution in each community, making the Itasca Holiday Program truly an effort of neighbors helping neighbors. 

The many annual activities related to the Itasca Holiday Program have begun. The program appeal is out, the Gingerbread Giving Trees are going up, and referred families are signing up for the program. The gratitude of the families is evident as they thank Second Harvest for the food, and express how little they would have for their children if it weren’t for this program.

While signing up for the program, one mother explained “I have two girls’ ages three and six years old, and they hear from everyone, “you don’t get presents if you’re bad”.  My girls have not been bad, but they get hardly anything at Christmas because I can’t afford it and pay the other bills, too.  I never want them to think they are bad just because I don’t have the money to give them special things on Christmas.  I know the holidays aren’t supposed to be about what you get, but I want to be a parent who can give some presents to my kids and make them feel good and happy on Christmas. Without your help, that would be impossible for me and it’s tough to admit that.”
The need for hunger relief continues to increase in our community.  So far this year, food shelves have seen a 15% increase in people coming for help.  High costs for food, transportation and housing put a squeeze on low income families and those on fixed incomes.  Winter causes extra strain on already tight budgets.  The food boxes provided by the holiday program provide extra food at a time that so many struggling families, low income seniors and people with disabilities really need it.

Second Harvest’s annual Itasca Holiday Program enables the community to reach out to their neighbors during this season of sharing. We are fortunate to live in such a caring community.

Please help Second Harvest feed hope this holiday season.
(Pictured here: (1)L & M employees with SHNCFB staff Ellen Christmas kicking off the Itasca Holiday Program.  (2)Children helping others by donating gifts to the Itasca Holiday Program)
Give Today!
Join Itasca County officers and employees at the Itasca County Courthouse on Friday, December 11th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm for a benefit lunch. All proceeds help support the Itasca Holiday Program.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

How can 49 million people face hunger in a country that wastes billions of pounds of food?

There is more than enough food in America to feed every man, woman and child.  Yet, here in north central Minnesota, thousands of people face hunger during the holidays and throughout the year. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting more food to people in need. Together, we can solve hunger and ensure that everyone has enough to eat this holiday season and all year long.
Second Harvest North Central Food Bank provides over 3.5 million meals for people in need every year and leads the fight against hunger in our community. As a member of Feeding America, we also play a vital role in solving the problem of hunger nationwide.
As we gather together this Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the opportunity to share an abundant meal with our family and friends.  At the same time, let us remember that many in our community are struggling every day to put just a little food on the table.  Thanks to the generous support of so many donors and volunteers, Second Harvest is able to help thousands of hungry kids, seniors on low fixed incomes, disabled adults and hard working families.  I’m so thankful for this community’s support for Second Harvest Food Bank. 
Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Together we can solve hunger.

Give Today


Monday, November 16, 2015

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes in the food-pantry line: how food banks can help reach the hard-to-reach
November 12, 2015
by Elaine Waxman
This blog is re-posted from Urban Institute's blog, Urban Wire.
On a sunny spring day in 2013, the Redwood Empire Food Bank of Sonoma County, California, set up a mobile food pantry in the parking lot of a boarded-up Albertson’s supermarket. Nearly 85 people—mostly mothers with very young children—came to pick up fruits and vegetables, which can be expensive items for low-income families. But that day, the food bank was also providing another service: screenings for diabetes, a disease that can be impossible to control if you can’t afford enough to eat.
About 80 people signed up to be screened, and several had elevated A1C levels, a marker for blood sugar control used to diagnose diabetes. In some cases, these young moms were not aware they were sick. Others told food bank staff that they previously had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, but could not afford medical care or had lost their health coverage after the birth of their child. 
For these clients, the mobile food pantry’s public health intervention came at a critical moment. Prior research suggests that food insecurity may act as a risk factor for diet-sensitive diseases and that people struggling with both diabetes and food insecurity have poorer health outcomes. People facing hard choices between buying food and medicine or medical care may all but give up on managing their disease.
Piloting diabetes interventions at food pantry sites
Because many people with food insecurity have health problems that can be managed or improved with a better diet, food pantries are ideal sites for health interventions. We tested this concept through a pilot project that included Redwood Empire, The Food Bank of Corpus Christi in Texas, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Grove City, Ohio, and their food pantry partners.
Between February 2012 and March 2014, we enrolled 687 food pantry clients with diabetes in a six-month intervention program. Participants received diabetes screenings, blood sugar monitoring, diabetes-appropriate food, medical-care referrals, and self-management support. The hope was that the program would empower clients to manage their diabetes by providing them with food and with educational resources that would support them in following through on their doctor’s orders.
My coauthors from the University of California, San Francisco and from Feeding America and I recently published our evaluation of the pilot project. We found that, by the end of the intervention, participants had improved their blood sugar control, added more fruits and vegetables to their diets, and were better able to follow their doctors’ instructions for taking medicine and managing their disease.
While the results need to be confirmed in a controlled trial, already underway this fall, the study suggests that food pantries are a promising model for promoting better health among vulnerable populations—and not just for diabetes, but also for other diseases affected by poor nutrition, such as hypertension.
Food banks can partner with and educate health care providers
This vision places a heavy burden on food banks, which would need to continue improving the quality and nutritional content of the food they distribute, including adding more perishable food, which adds costs and complexity to their operations. Through the pilot, we gained crucial experience in working through challenges such as purchasing food when donated supplies didn’t meet quality standards, increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and educating staff and volunteers about the needs of clients with diet-sensitive diseases.
But this vision also offers new hope for leveraging the nonprofit sector to reach those disconnected from or underserved by the health care sector. The Feeding America food banking network serves 46.5 million people annually, and about one-third of these households reported in 2014 that at least one member of their household had diabetes; more than half reported someone had hypertension.
Moreover, partnerships with food banks can give health care providers an important resource for food- insecure patients who are struggling to manage their health. Effective diabetes management requires a regular supply of healthy food, a need not typically addressed through the health care system. During the pilot study, food banks also reached out to health care providers about screening patients for food insecurity and referring them to the diabetes food program. At Redwood Empire Food Bank alone, providers referred more than 200 of their patients to the food bank during the study, as they began viewing the project as a real benefit for their patients.
While charitable solutions alone won’t be enough to improve the health of the nearly one in six Americans who are food insecure, policymakers should engage food banks in public health interventions, leveraging their ability to reach vulnerable populations with diet-sensitive diseases.
*Elaine Waxman is a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Give to the Max Day 2015

Gearing up for Give to the Max Day! Join your fellow supporter of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank during the "Great Minnesota Give Together!" 

Make your online donation anytime from 12:00am until 11:59pm between Tuesday, November 2nd and Thursday, November 12 for a chance at helping us win an additional $1,000 golden ticket! 
Simply visit our Second Harvest North Central Food Bank page on to schedule your gift in advance. All gifts made now through November 11th will automatically transacted on Give to the Max Day November 12th. Schedule your donation right now!
Thank you for your generous donation and for helping us help those that we serve.