March campaign for local food pantries under way
WORTHINGTON — March is Minnesota Food Share Month — a time when food pantries across the state ramp up efforts to collect both food and monetary donations to access matching contributions from Second Harvest Heartland and philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein.
Locally, the Manna Food Pantry and Worthington Christian Church food pantry collect their largest contributions for the year during the month of March to capitalize on the matching contributions. Those donations have already begun, with individuals dropping off cash and canned goods.
Last week, 10-year-old Brigette Rosenberg dropped off 100 pounds of donated food at Manna Food Pantry — a collection she’d taken from friends invited to her birthday party.
“She said, ‘Mom, I have all the toys I need. I don’t want anything,’” shared Linda Sanchez, Manna Food Pantry Coordinator, about the story behind the collection.
Rosenberg, the daughter of Scott and Lori Rosenberg of rural Worthington, had the idea for the birthday party food drive after attending a pajama party in recent months that encouraged attendees to bring pajamas for children in need.
Rosenberg’s 100-pound food donation will be counted with all other food and monetary donations collected this month. Sanchez has set a goal of 75,000 — a combination of dollars and pounds of food for the month of March.
Both Manna and the Worthington Christian Church food shelves have seen an increase in clientele this winter. At Manna, Sanchez reported that more than 426,700 pounds of food were distributed in 2013 — a fourth of which was donated by Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee and Fareway stores in Worthington — compared to 344,400 pounds distributed in 2012. Already in 2014, Sanchez said 62,600 pounds of food has been distributed to 790 households.
“There’s a lot of people that have summer-type jobs in construction and farm work,” she said of the increased winter-time need. “We also have a farm bill that decreased food support.”
With individuals getting less money in food support, they are coming to the food pantry to help feed their families.
“We personally here have seen a lot of new clients since the beginning of the year,” said Sanchez, who became coordinator at Manna Food Pantry last August.
In 2013, Manna Food Pantry provided food to more than 18,500 individuals, including nearly 950 senior citizens.
Sanchez said the number of seniors who qualify for food aid is greater, yet they may be too proud or too embarrassed to ask for help.
“I would like to see more of them come — they need the good, nutritious food,” she said.
In addition to food, Sanchez said seniors can access the Nutrition Assistance Program for seniors, which provides a box of food and a brick of cheese on the second Thursday of each month to those who qualify. The qualifications are that the senior be considered low-income (130 percent of the poverty level).
All individuals who meet income eligibility for food assistance at one of the local food pantries can have access to the entire pantry — canned goods, meat, milk, cereal, bakery items and fresh produce — once per month. Depending on family size, Sanchez said the supply is enough to last maybe five to seven days.
“That’s primarily what the pantry is for,” she said. “It’s more of an emergency supply to help them get through. It’s not a whole month supply.”
In addition to their once-a-month visit for food, qualifying clients can also return once per week for bakery items and fresh produce.
Since Sanchez began at Manna Food Pantry, she’s focused on eliminating fraud, in which people using the same address are collecting food for the same household.
“We had some families going through five or six times,” she said. “In the past, the addresses hadn’t been checked real close. We’ve pretty much taken care of that.”
Sanchez said there are still issues with some people getting food from both food pantries in Worthington, which isn’t allowed. It’s something she said is being addressed.
Visitors to both pantries are required to fill out an application form and provide a picture ID.
Jennifer Griffith, coordinator of the Worthington Christian Church pantry, speculates the increase in food need is due in part to the economy, but also to people who are new to the community and need a little food to get by until collecting their first paycheck.
The Worthington Christian Church Food Pantry is open from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Manna Food Pantry, meanwhile, is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
People may drop off cash or food donations during the hours the pantry is open, or during church office hours in the case of the Worthington Christian Church.
Both food pantry coordinators said they are in need of volunteers to help during food distribution days. To help, contact Griffith at 360-9726 or Sanchez at 370-1190.
The Worthington Christian Church Food Pantry is located at 1501 N. Douglas Ave., while Manna Food Pantry is located in the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 230 Clary St. Manna also has a need for empty egg cartons and plastic bags. Those may be dropped off during distribution days.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.