Summer brings anything but relaxation for food shelf

For many, summer is that three-month period that you spend the other nine months looking forward to.
But for others, especially those less fortunate, it can be just the opposite.
For low-income families and families that struggle to consistently put food on the table, summer often provides the biggest challenges and the loudest hunger pangs.
Many of these same families are aided during the school year by their kids receiving reduced cost (and sometimes free) meals at the school due to their income situation. But when summer rolls around, the pressure all falls on the parents (or guardians) to produce three meals and snacks for each and every member of the family.
The Monticello Food Shelf, as well as other food shelves around the state, is trying to do its best to reduce that pressure.
Director Sandy McClurg points out that when the need for food rises for these families, most of their other outlets for getting it – such as food stamps, income, etc – don’t rise with it. So the food shelf is doing its best to rise to the occasion.
With the help of grant money, the Monticello Food Shelf has added a “second service” to help families with kids get through these difficult summer months.
“Families come in and get what we call a “kids pack”, and get

Kids packs are one way the food shelf tries to help families survive the summer.

Kids packs are one way the food shelf tries to help families survive the summer.

particular food for children,” said McClurg.
Typically, the food shelf asks that the family comes in for the second service later in the month, after they’ve already had their first round of goods for a while. That allows them to have some fresh options for the entire month (including produce and dairy products) instead of just at the beginning of the month.
The kids packs include everything from cereals to snacks to pastas.
While the food shelf relies on grant money to run that second service, they still need donations from throughout the community to keep the rest of its shelves stocked throughout summer.
McClurg says that while demand always goes up in the summer, supply goes the other direction.
“Donations really go down in the summer,” she said. “That’s the other key factor.”
There are many reasons for that, but the most common one seems to be that people simply just have a lot of other things to think about during the summer.
To get the food shelf, and the less-fortunate, back on the minds of those who can help, The Monticello Food Shelf is taking part in Hunger Solutions July Summer Challenge. It benefits the food shelf substantially for two reasons. One, it encourages cash donations. “We understand that sometimes there is a real value to doing the food drive,” said McClurg. “It helps people see what’s happening. We really appreciate that too. It’s just that the financial piece is the buying power. We get a lot of food. We get about seven meals per every dollar we spend. Which is huge. It’s kind of amazing how much buying power we have with [Second Harvest].”
The second reason the summer challenge benefits the food shelf is that it allows them the opportunity to win a proportional amount of $100,000.
That is how large the pot of money provided by Hunger Solutions is. And each food shelf that is competing is entitled to a portion of that pot based off of how much money they raise. There are over 300 different food shelves in Minnesota that are competing for a part of that pot, so it might seem like Monticello’s chances of receiving more than a few hundred dollars are low – but just last year Monticello was able to cash in on approximately $4,000 after a very successful drive.
“It really helped the summer [last year],” said McClurg. “The money can be used to purchase the food we purchase at Second Harvest.”
Interested in donating to the Monticello Food Shelf? Monetary donations can be dropped off at The Monticello Food Shelf or mailed to Monticello Help Center, 215 Cedar St., P.O. Box 1220, Monticello, MN 55362. The Monticello Times is also currently accepting cash and food donations. Check the calendar on page 3 for more information on the current food drive.
If you have questions you can call the food shelf at 763-295-4031 or visit their website at www.monticellohelpcenter.org.

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