Uptown food shelf is half-century old

Joyce Uptown Food Shelf's Katie Kraehling
Joyce Uptown Food Shelf employee Katie Kraehlin stocks shelves before opening to the public on May 23. The food shelf, which serves 11,000 Minnesotans each year, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photos by Christopher Shea

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly one in 10 Minnesotans struggle to find food on a consistent basis because of a lack of money. For the past five decades, the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf has worked to lower that statistic by providing food to Minnesotans in need at no cost. It’s holding a celebration to mark its 50th anniversary on June 2.

Founded in 1969, the Uptown-based nonprofit started as a project of the Joyce United Methodist Church, but following the church’s closure in 2013 due to dwindling membership, it became an outreach program of the Lake Harriet United Methodist Church.

“We try really hard to reduce barriers for people to get food,” director Lorrie Sandelin said. “If you’re worried about where your food is going to come from, that makes it difficult to focus on other things.”

The food shelf provides people with essentials such as bread, milk, fruit, chicken, eggs and cooking oil, along with household items such as diapers and pet food. Clients are provided with 18–20 pounds of food per person up to twice a month, Sandelin said. In 2018 alone, Joyce Uptown Food Shelf served 200,000 pounds of food to 11,000 people.

Joyce Uptown Food Shelf
Clients of Joyce Uptown Food Shelf can pick up 18–20 pounds of food per visit.

Much of the food received is from the food banks Second Harvest Heartland and the Food Group, along with surplus commodities from the federal government. This accounts for around two-thirds of the food shelf’s stock; the rest comes from the nearby community, with businesses such as the Wedge Community Co-op, Soo Line Community Garden and the local Whole Foods providing produce, along with other donations from individuals. Sandelin said community buy-in is how Joyce Uptown Food Shelf has managed to sustain itself and its clients for the past 50 years.

“We’re just overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit,” she said.

Board member Karin Schurrer-Erickson said that the idea of thinking about one’s neighbors is what has connected with the surrounding community.

In addition to serving food, Joyce Uptown Food Shelf also provides clients with information on other food programs, such as summer lunch programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, along with referrals to assistance organizations.

The food shelf doesn’t have many plans for changes moving forward, apart from offering more foods for those with dietary restrictions.

Joyce Uptown Food Shelf is holding a community celebration on June 2 at Bryant Square Park. The food shelf itself is open from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursday.