by Dennis Dalman
Sartell does not have a city-based food shelf, but people in need, people who are hungry, can get help at either the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities, both St. Cloud-based.
Sartell residents, churches and businesses have long contributed to both of those food shelves by donating tons and tons of food items on a regular bases, as well as generous money donations.
Other area residents who can receive food from those two food shelves, in addition to Sartell residents, are those who live in St. Cloud, St. Augusta, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park. St. Joseph has its own independent food shelf.
The best time to give is during the month of March, which is FoodShare Month. Catholic Charities and Salvation Army are both members of the Twin Cities-based Minnesota FoodShare, which is an interfaith collaboration. FoodShare gathers a pool of incentive funds donated by huge companies, such as Target, General Mills and Land O Lakes. Those incentive funds are then distributed to member food shelves throughout the state depending on how much food those local food shelves take in during the month of March. The more food donated, the more incentive funds received from FoodShare.
Pack the Porches
A crucial date is Friday, March 23, dubbed “Pack the Porches Day,” because on that day food donations will be accepted from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. at three locations: HealthPartners Central Minnesota Clinic, 2251 Connecticut Ave. (in Sartell’s medical campus); St. Cloud Hyundai, 900 Second St. S., Waite Park; and Pioneer Place on Fifth Theatre, 22 Fifth Ave. S., St. Cloud.
“Pack the Porches is a way for people to come together as a community to make a difference, to thank those who stop by to the businesses that will provide coffee to go,” said Steve Pareja, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of St. Cloud and a deacon at St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell. “It’s really a great way to come together.”
Pareja noted that March is also important because after January and February, food stocks at local food shelves tend to dwindle, so March is the ideal time to restock the shelves.
“The more food and funds we can secure locally, the more those incentive funds will come back to help hungry people in the St. Cloud area,” Pareja said. “When you consider that our buying power allows Catholic Charities to use just $10 to purchase $30 worth of groceries, every dollar is significant.”
Donations to Catholic Charities
Aside from “Pack the Porches Day,” any day in March – in fact, any day year ‘round – is a good time to contribute, Pareja noted. At Catholic Charities, nonperishable food items can be dropped off from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays. The Catholic Charities food shelf is at 157 Roosevelt Road in St. Cloud. Monetary donations can be made online at ccstcloud.org
Donations to Salvation Army
The FoodShare campaign for the Salvation Army actually started in late February and will run through April 8.
There are several ways to help. Nonperishable food items can be dropped off at Salvation Army headquarters from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 400 Highway. 10 S. in St. Cloud (on the frontage road across the highway from Cash Wise East).
Monetary donations can be made online at salvationarmynorth.org. Contributors can type in the St. Cloud ZIP code for the Salvation Army (56304) if they want to be sure their donation will be directed to that particular location. There are 19 Salvation Army food-shelf facilities in Minnesota.
In addition, people can start a food drive in schools, churches, businesses and neighborhoods. It’s as easy as setting up a big box in a lobby and encouraging people to bring in food items.
For more information, call the Salvation Army at 320-252-4552.
Without volunteers food shelf services would be virtually impossible, and food shelf volunteers are needed at both the Salvation Army and the Catholic Charities facilities.
Volunteers can work as few or as many hours as they like. To find out more about volunteer options, visit the websites:
Trina Dietz, a Sartell resident, notices time and again that people in need defy the often-negative stereotypes that unfairly “stick” to them.
“People who are hungry look an awful lot like me,” she said.
Dietz is senior communications director for Catholic Charities Emergency Services. She has been a part of that organization for 10 years.
The Catholic Charities Food Shelf, she said, serves about 2,000 families per month, adding that less than 5 percent of those families need food shelf food every month, and about 30 percent needed food only for one time during 2017. Most food shelf recipients are working people who just cannot make ends meet for a number of reasons – absence of a spouse, family emergencies, illnesses and so forth, Dietz added.
“It’s so hard for them to ask for help,” she said. “I’ve become much less judgmental. It’s so easy to judge. Solutions are not always simple. Even for those who don’t have jobs, it’s often difficult. Getting a job for some people is not always as easy as it sounds.”
Dietz said working at Catholic Charities has given her a widened perception of the world.
Whenever she is having a bad day, Dietz said she thinks of the people she’s met through Catholic Charities, the people having troubles, tragedies, complications in their lives, and she realizes how fortunate she is.
“It puts the whole world in a new perspective, and I am so gratified to help others in need,” she said. “It’s been a blessing for my children, too – to have a mom doing this kind of work.”
One in 10
One in 10 Minnesotans experiences occasional food insecurity, according to statistics supplied by the Salvation Army.
Food insecurity is defined as people having inconsistent access to food because of lack of money or other factors in their lives.
About 14 percent of children in Minnesota are “food-insecure,” and about 10 percent of the state’s children were living below the poverty line in 2016.
Statistics also reveal food insecurity among senior citizens is increasing.