Minnesota FoodShare launches food drive as benefit cuts take effect

The state’s largest food drive is underway.

“Every year we’re trying to raise at least 50 percent of what will be distributed through the next year,” said Suzanne Shatila, Minnesota FoodShare director.

Minnesota FoodShare reports that in 2012, one out of 10 Minnesotans received federal food assistance, a third of them children. Food stamps, food shelves and subsidized school lunches all saw record use in 2012.

“Even though we’re hearing that the economy is improving, it hasn’t touched a lot of the people using food shelves,” Shatila said.

The March Campaign started in 1983 to help food shelves restock after the holidays. Local participants include The Aliveness Project at 3808 Nicollet Ave. and the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf at 3041 Fremont Ave. S.

Last year, people donated $8.3 million and nearly 4 million pounds of food.

FoodShare staff recommend monetary donations to take advantage of food shelves’ buying power.

“They’re able to really stretch money,” Shatila said.

If someone does want to donate food, however, Shatila recommended contacting their local food shelf for recommendations, as needs vary.

The March Campaign comes at a time when new food stamp cuts have taken effect, and more reductions are in the pipeline. A temporary recession-era funding boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) ended Nov. 1, cutting benefits for nearly all recipients.

Shatila said the full impact isn’t yet clear, but some food shelves report an increase in emergency visits.

“Families started seeing $36 less per month,” she said. “When you already have very little to spend on food each month, $36 is a significant amount.”

Additional Southwest-area food shelves include Incarnation Church Food Shelf at 3817 Pleasant Ave. S., Groveland Emergency Food Shelf at 1900 Nicollet Ave., and Simpson Food Pantry at 2740 1st Ave. S. The March food drive at Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St., yields matching donations.

For more information, visit mnfoodshare.gmcc.org.