Fill the shelves

Valley Outreach midway through annual food drive

Valley Outreach is asking the community to pitch in and fill up their shelves during March Food Shelf Month. Donated amounts this month are directly tied to how much help they can give community members this summer. The Food Shelf serves 400 families a month.  (Gazette staff photo courtesy of Valley Outreach)

Valley Outreach is asking the community to pitch in and fill up their shelves during March Food Shelf Month. Donated amounts this month are directly tied to how much help they can give community members this summer. The Food Shelf serves 400 families a month. (Gazette staff photo courtesy of Valley Outreach)

March Food Shelf month hits the halfway point and Valley Outreach needs the St. Croix Valley’s help filling their shelves.

“March is unique because that’s when the Minneapolis Council of Churches pools their money and challenges the food shelves in the area to compete against each other,” said Valley Outreach Deputy Director Sally Anderson. “Based on where the food shelf comes in they are awarded incentive dollars based on where we are in the state which allows us to turn around and purchase more food.”

The success of the March campaign directly impacts what Valley Outreach can provide clients in the summer months. The incentives are given to the organization by Minnesota Food Share and the Feinstein Foundation Giveaway to Fight Hunger. Summer months are critical for this funding because students no longer benefit from the free and reduced lunch program at schools and families rely on the food shelf to combat hunger.

“When you know that 20 percent of the student in the school district are on free and reduced lunch that’s really shocking, and that number has gone up in the last few years,” Anderson said. “It’s not always in front of everybody but we help 400 families a month.”

Over the last few years Valley Outreach has seen a 64 percent increase in the demand for food shelf services.

“One in 10 residents of Washington County — families, children, the elderly — struggles with hunger. More folks are finding themselves making difficult choices: Pay for food or pay for rent. Pay for groceries or pay for medicine. We are asking the community to take action and get involved by combining efforts at your workplace, church, or in your neighborhood. Together we can have an immediate and profound effect on our community.” said Valley Outreach Executive Director Christine Tubbs.

A variety of organizations have already stepped up in the community. Included in this list are about 40 area businesses, at least 20 churches, public libraries, city offices, and schools. Businesses range from small businesses to larger medical clinics meaning there’s lots of places to donate throughout the area. This is a new feature this year and Anderson believes it will be a benefit.

“We’ve put them in very public places so people have easy access to them,” Anderson said. “When businesses help us within their companies picking up foot traffic can really be a wonderful thing.”

Public collection sites can be found at Stillwater and Bayport Public libraries and city offices in Bayport, Lake Elmo and Stillwater. A longer list of collection sites can be found on www.valleyoutreachmn.org. People may also drop off donations at Valley Outreach between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Financial contributions are also being directed toward the March campaign with every $1 donated purchasing $10 of food through buying partners used by the organization.
Anderson hopes to get as many donations as the organization possibly can.

“Though there’s no specific goal set, the community has always been really generous and they’ve been great supporters of us,” Anderson said.

up arrow