Food campaign seeks donations through March

| Bridget Ryder for The Catholic Spirit | March 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Minnesota FoodShare is calling on parishes to restock the state’s food shelves this month as part of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches’ March Campaign.

Susanne Shatila

Suzanne Shatila

“Our goal is to raise at least 50 percent of the food that will be distributed throughout the year,” said Suzanne Shatila, director of Minnesota FoodShare.

The monthlong food and fundraising drive is the largest statewide grassroots campaign of its kind, according to Shatila. Almost 300 of the state’s 350 food shelves participated in the campaign last year, and more signed up this year.

The March Campaign raises awareness of hunger and food insecurity in Minnesota, and encourages religious congregations and other groups to donate to food shelves. In January, Minnesota FoodShare reached out to more than 3,600 congregations with information about food insecurity in Minnesota.

The cadets at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights responded to the call to help the hungry. As part of their sixth annual Advocacy for the Hungry Food Drive, the students at the all-boys military high school distributed grocery bags to their neighbors and collected donations during the weeks leading up to Lent. On the morning of Ash Wednesday, the entire student body loaded 10,440 pounds of food onto a semi truck for delivery to Neighborhood House, the largest single-site food shelf in Ramsey County. For its efforts, the school received a Star of the North Congressional Award from U.S. Rep. John Kline of Burnsville.

The Pack the Pews weekend March 21 encourages churches to “line the aisles” with donations to a local food shelf.

During last year’s campaign, individual food shelves raised $8.3 million and collected 4 million pounds of food. Monetary donations also can be made directly to the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. All donations made during the campaign go into its food fund for disbursement to food shelves. In 2013, it dispersed $775,000.

For those wanting to contribute, Shatila said donating money is a good option because food shelves can purchase food at reduced prices and “get more bang for their buck.” Cash donations also buy perishable items such as fresh produce and meat.

Food shelves may also serve people with specific dietary needs or an immigrant population. Shatila recommended checking with the food shelf about its particular needs before donating.

According to Minnesota FoodShare, in 2012, more than 8,500 people per day used a food shelf in the state. Shatila said despite glimpses of economic recovery, needs remain high. In November, Congress made cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.

“That put a strain on budgets,” Shatila said. “Even though we’re hearing that unemployment is going down, that’s not impacting families. They’re still struggling.”

School closings because of cold temperatures this winter were an additional burden on families that rely on school food programs to meet their children’s basic nutritional needs.

“Because kids who usually get free or reduced-price lunches at school weren’t getting that, that put a strain on family budgets,” Shatila added.

For more information about Minnesota FoodShare, to sign up to participate or to donate, visit


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