Food pantries get new refrigerators, freezersWORTHINGTON — The Manna Food Pantry will receive five new freezers and three refrigerators this week thanks to a generous contribution from Nobles Cooperative Electric. It’s the third area food shelf in recent weeks to receive new appliances from the cooperative.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Manna Food Pantry will receive five new freezers and three refrigerators this week thanks to a generous contribution from Nobles Cooperative Electric. It’s the third area food shelf in recent weeks to receive new appliances from the cooperative.
Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf accepted two new appliances on Nov. 21, and Murray County Food Shelf, Inc., received two freezers and five refrigerators on Nov. 26. All of the appliances are brand-new, energy-efficient models that will keep perishable foods cold or frozen until they are given out to food shelf clients.
Tracey Haberman, communications specialist with Nobles Cooperative Electric, said the appliance donations were made possible because of operating revenues earned from residential retail sales. State law requires cooperatives to spend a portion of that revenue on income-eligible programs, and the area food shelves was a perfect fit.
“We really kind of looked at how we can reach the most people,” Haberman said. “When it came to our attention that there were some food pantries operating in the area with some inefficient appliances, we thought this would be a good way to reach the most people.”
Not only did the cooperative donate the new appliances, they are also going to recycle the old appliances at the food shelves and get the energy hogs off the grid. At the same time, Haberman said they are in the midst of a “Let’s Pack the Pantry” campaign, accepting donations of non-perishable food items and cash from not just cooperative members but anyone willing to donate.
“They can bring items to our office in Worthington or Slayton, or a monetary donation made out to one of the three food shelves,” she said. “On top of that, we’ll match (cash donations) with some of the funds we still have available through this state mandate.”
Haberman said the cooperative has up to $4,000 to match cash donations made by individuals. The collection began little more than a week ago, and already, the cooperative has received several donations.
“It makes you feel good that you’re doing something good for the community,” she added.
Dennis and Marie Weeks, of the Manna Food Pantry, are thrilled to be receiving their new appliances on Wednesday. They will get two new chest freezers, three new upright freezers and three new refrigerators.
The new equipment can’t come at a better time for the pantry, well-stocked in preparation for a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas.
Dennis Weeks pointed to the two chest freezers he currently has — both of which have cases of canned goods stacked on them to keep the lids shut. The appliances are well-used and the seals no longer work adequately.
Manna Food Pantry continues to see steady numbers of individuals needing to access the food shelf. On average, they serve 350 to 400 families per month, with some clients making weekly visits for perishable items like bread and garden produce.
Weeks said 2012 was an exceptional year for donations from local gardeners and farmers. The Manna Food Pantry accepted nearly 100,000 pounds of produce during the growing season — everything from potatoes and squash to sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers.
“When I get way too much, I share with Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf, the Fulda Food Shelf and the Murray County Food Shelf,” Weeks said.
Wal-Mart, Fareway and Hy-Vee all donate items as well, from baked goods to produce.
Clients who visit the food pantry are eligible to receive food once per month, and receive, on average, 25 pounds of food per person in the household. That includes canned fruits and vegetables, boxed and bagged foods and three kinds of meat — beef, pork and chicken.
In the two years since Weeks became coordinator at the Manna Food Pantry, he’s heard many stories of hardship from those who come to the food shelf for aid.
“The majority of our clients are employed,” he said. “They just don’t get benefits, enough hours or enough income to support themselves or their family.”
Weeks shared one story of a 70-year-old homeless Caucasian male who came to the pantry for two months for food. He was living out of his car in the parking lot of a local business, and heated up canned foods in a microwave of a convenience store. That man now has a place to live, but there are many more like him in the community.
“Twice a year we have to do a residential survey and I’m always surprised at the number of people we list as homeless,” Weeks said, adding that many of them go from one friend or family member’s home to another.
“In July, a number of people reported they live in the park. They say we have nice parks and nice shelter houses they can actually sleep in,” he detailed.
Most learn quickly that they can access food at the local food shelves with a picture ID and proof that they’re living in Nobles County. At Manna Food Pantry, clients now get a food pantry card with an ID number to make it easier for recordkeeping.
The pantry is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Manna Food Pantry has recently added a new program specifically for seniors in need of food assistance. The Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS) will be offered the second Thursday of each month during pantry hours.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.