Operation Round Up Grant for Food Shelves

Friday, July 10th, 2009 at 9:59 am

BRAHAM, MN-Despite a growth in usage of 40-50 families per month at most locations, staff and volunteers at the Family Pathways food shelves breathed a big sigh of relief recently.

A $5,000 East Central Energy (ECE) Operation Round Up ® grant will allow the organization to serve the “new generation of hunger” that is inundating its eight food shelves without having to cut back on the amount of food each family receives.

“It means everything to us,” said Kathy Wills, manager of the Family Pathways food shelf program. “It’s the security to continue to give 30 pounds per person in each family. It’s the security of knowing that the kids who don’t have their school lunches this summer won’t have to skip a meal…. It’s being able to give more meat to our families.”

Operation Round Up is a voluntary program in which ECE members choose to have their monthly electric bill rounded up to the next whole dollar. The money goes into a fund. An independent trust board meets quarterly to review grant requests and distribute the funds to non-profit organizations, which use them to support projects and programs which benefit their communities. More than $1 million has been distributed since the program began.

According to Wills, the past year has brought many new faces to the food shelves.

“We are seeing people nearing retirement, people in their 50s who have lost their job, their house has gotten foreclosed on, and they can’t pay their bills. They never knew where the food shelf was because they never had to use it. They are embarrassed because they’ve always believed that you take care of yourself.”

Clients come to the Family Pathways food shelves by appointment to give them privacy. They are able to choose items that they and their family members will use, rather than receiving a pre-packaged allotment of food. Family Pathways purchases much of its inventory from Second Harvest Heartland in Maplewood, MN, and also receives donations from local grocery and discount stores. Wills said individuals are also “stepping up” their support of the food shelves.

Family Pathways’ goal for its food shelves in 2009 is to distribute 905,000 pounds of food, increasing the amount given to each family by 20 percent. The organization serves 184,000 residents with food shelves in Cambridge, Onamia, Sandstone, Hinckley, North Branch, Lindstrom and Forest Lake in Minnesota and St. Croix Falls in Wisconsin. Forty-four percent of its clients are children under age 17.

Wills said the Operation Round Up grant will ensure that the food shelves reach their goal; she is concerned that the goal is high enough to meet the steadily increasing need.

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