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Dramatic rise in food shelf use causes deficit

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

Volunteers were busy packing groceries into 193 boxes for delivery to families in the area on Monday morning. To see more photographs of this event, log on to http://cu.faribaultcountyregister.com

Although no one is saying it is tied to the economy, the local food shelf has seen a dramatic rise in numbers of users recently.

Mavis Hilpipre, coordinator of the Food Shelf of Western Faribault County for five years, says the non-profit group serves families of the county all year long, but there are three times each year when they prepare boxes of food to deliver.

“We do this before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter each year,” she explains.

Last year at Thanksgiving they prepared boxes of food for 115 families. On Monday they were putting the finishing touches on boxes for 193 families for this year’s Thanksgiving week delivery.

“It is a big increase,” Hilpipre says. “Last Easter we served 150 families, so this is 40 more.”

Hilpipre is not sure if bad economic times is the reason for the jump, or if the Food Shelf is just getting more referrals. Those referrals come from pastors, school social workers and managers of low income housing units.

“We have more referrals from the Wells area than we have had before,” she says. “But we have more from all over as well. We don’t turn anyone away.”

The local food shelf operates as an ’emergency food shelf.’ This means needy families can use it just three times per year, for emergency situations. With the three holiday food boxes, a local family could get help a total of six times.

“We are supported by many, many people,” Hilpipre says. She named the boy scouts, elementary students, churches and the BEA music department as just a few of those who raise goods and money.

“There really are too many to name,” she says. “I want to thank them all. And we use every single thing we get in – nothing goes to waste.”

The Food Shelf also has no paid employees – everyone volunteers. The BEA Middle School gives the group space for food storage.

“The only thing we pay for is a telephone,” she says.

With a big increase in usage, the food shelf is facing a deficit in funds for the first time in a long time. They feel that will be made up shortly, however, with holiday donations.

“Of course, the big thing is the campout,” Hilpipre says. “That is a tremendous boost for us.”

She is referring to the KBEW/Darling International 12th Annual You Can Make A Difference Campout. The event is scheduled for Dec. 4-6 on the corner of Juba’s Super Valu parking lot.

“They raise a huge amount of food and money for the food shelf,” Hilpipre says. “They take in many food and toy donations during the three-day event.”

The area food shelf also receives matching funds from Thrivent Financial, donations of canned goods from Seneca Foods, and a lot of help from Juba’s.

“We also purchase a lot of our food from the Rochester Channel One group,” Hilpipre explains. “They are the official U.S.D.A. commodity center, so we can get many kinds of food items from them at a discount.”

The Food Shelf helps more than just those who receive the boxes. Volunteers on Monday said they feel good knowing they are helping those who need it.