Thanks in part to a county coronavirus relief grant, the soup kitchen was able to partner with those in its food coalition – including food shelves in Pequot Lakes, Crosby, Crosslake and Central Lakes College – to purchase the ‘equipment and improve food resources. in the zone. Crow Wing Energized and the University of Minnesota Extension Office also contributed to the project.
“It’s really fun standing here in this building because over a year and a half ago it was just a dream in people’s minds, and so walking in the building is a beautiful thing. Shannon Mills, General Manager of Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, said on Monday, May 10, as she stood in the building’s new addition.
In 2019, Chuck Mueller of Lakes Area Food Pantry in Pequot Lakes learned that businesses in the area were willing to donate their excess food to soup kitchens or food shelves, but the entities receiving them had to be affiliated with Feeding America. Fortunately, Second Harvest Food Bank, which supplies coalition members with much of their food, is a subsidiary of Feeding America, which means the donations were ready to go.
Mueller and other members of the coalition now buy food two days a week from both Costco and Target, as well as other businesses when the surplus is available.
The caveat for many companies, however, is that food shelves should contain all available food. But with limited transport and storage, this can sometimes be difficult.
The day after Thanksgiving, Mueller picked up 350 pies from Costco. In cases like this, Mueller or others with larger vehicles end up driving around the county to drop off donations at various food shelves or shelters. But with Sharing Bread’s new fridge and freezer offering plenty of storage space, those on other food shelves can come to one central spot to pick up all the items they need.
A new refrigerator and freezer addition to Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen in Brainerd will help store and keep food fresh for various food shelves across the county. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
“We’re here today, celebrating not COVID, but some of the results of COVID, with funding to help advance nutrition for those in Crow Wing County in particular,” said Monday. Peter Mann of the Lakes Area Food Shelf. . “… I believe that there is enough food in the world for all the people of the world. The biggest problem is distribution, getting it to the right place at the right time to keep it fresh, and this center should help solve that problem in Crow Wing County. “
And to help further with distribution, the coalition is working to secure funding for a van.
“If we can get the right vehicle, we can take food from here and then go to more underserved areas,” Mueller said, mentioning areas like Leader, Merrifield, Emily and Pine River, where he could. be difficult to come to Brainerd. collect food from the soup kitchen.
According to Hunger Solutions Minnesota, which works with state and federal governments to advance anti-hunger programs, visits to Minnesota food aisles increased 7% in 2020. Minnesota residents posted a record high of over 3.8 million visits to food shelves. The elderly population visited food shelves 31% more in 2020 than in 2019, while overall adult use increased by 1.2%. Children accounted for 35.7% of food department visits in 2020.
“One thing we do know is that food life is a problem across America and also that food insecurity is a problem. But also with food waste there is also an increase in pollution, so if we can help eliminate that, that’s something our food shelf coalition, I think, would benefit both. Costco doesn’t have to throw it in their dumpster, and we can find a place to go. “
The desired van would also help reduce this food waste. Food collected from retailers that might not be up to par for soup kitchen customers or food shelves might still be donated to farmers, who might be able to use it as animal feed or for composting.
And I hope the mobile distribution and the walk-in fridge / freezer will also help tackle food insecurity in the region.
“By being able to have a location like this and so that we can do the mobile distribution, we’re going to be able to expand the work that we’re doing,” Kalsey Stults, of Crow Wing Energized, said Monday. “And one thing we keep talking about is that there’s such a stigma about people who want to admit they’re hungry. There is such a personal stigma. They fight over having to come in and ask for help or come in and say, ‘I’m having trouble feeding my kids’ or’ I’m retired, and I just can’t get by with this. that I get every time. month. But all the organizations that we work with – and I know there are a lot of others that we don’t work with – they’re all here to try to help people in this time of need. And it doesn’t matter if your need is one-time or if it continues to be every month. There is nothing associated that anyone should be ashamed of. Everyone deserves to have food.