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March effort benefits local food shelves

WORTHINGTON -- Food shelves around the state are in the midst of the largest donation drive to restock supplies.

Organized annually for the past 29 years by Minnesota FoodShare, March Campaign is the only statewide effort to assist food shelves in Minnesota.

Locally, Manna Food Pantry and Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf already received a surge of donations.

"We received about $3,500 in the first week of March," said Manna board chairman Dennis Weeks. "This week, I already know we'll have more than the last."

Weeks and his wife Marie, who oversee Manna Food Pantry with the help of volunteers, are appreciative of local donations the benefit Manna.

"Just yesterday (Tuesday), a truck broke down and gave us 900 pounds of lettuce," Marie said. "It's a blessing."

Dennis explained the food shelf has regular donors that contribute every March including local businesses and churches.

"We have two farmers who give us potatoes every year," he continued. "Russ Alan from Sibley gives us 1,000 pounds of potatoes, and Brian Wagner just gave us 250 pounds the last day in February."

Jennifer Griffith, director of the WCC Food Shelf, added that both the charities received $500 from the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Association and $300 from the Nobles County Farm Bureau, respectively, last week.

"Donations have generally been down, but we've been getting more in March so far," Griffith said.

At the end of March, Minnesota FoodShare matches the percentage of funds collected by each food shelf based on the overall amount of money raised.

Donations to food shelves can vary between cash and food but Weeks stressed: "I can buy $10 worth of food for every dollar donated in cash."

He further explained that the monthly operations cost for Manna is about $8,000.

Last year, Manna Food Pantry received a total of $76,082 in cash donations and food poundage. The goal for this month is $60,000, Weeks added.

Marie explained that every pound of food received is equivalent to $1. From the amount raised, Minnesota FoodShare contributed $9,419 to Manna Food Pantry.

"All the food shelves are essentially competing to raise the most, but it's for a common goal," Dennis added. "It's healthy competition."

Manna Food Pantry served 868 families in 2011.

"People can come in for food items like meat and canned food once a month," Dennis explained. "They come in once a month for bread and perishables."

Manna Food Pantry hours are 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.

Worthington Christian Food Shelf operates from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. The shelf is open from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays in addition to its regular hours.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.