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Food shelf use on the rise

Vicki Bump stocked shelves at the Douglas County Food Shelf.

Now more than ever, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. The Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf needs the money for the increasing number of hungry mouths it needs to feed.

With the downturn in the economy, the food shelf has seen a noticeable rise in client visits over the past year.

"We're probably up 20 percent from last March," said Mary Sinning, a longtime volunteer at the food shelf. "The demand has been so high. We are getting more families where they have been laid off, or got cut to part time. When you are used to living on an income and now it's in half or third it makes a big difference."

Sinning has noticed that it's not just families that are struggling. The economy is hitting the elderly just as hard.

"We have such a hard time getting the elderly to come to the food shelf," she said. "I know it has a lot to do with pride. They lived through the Depression. They just do without."

As always, Douglas County's willingness to help feed those who are struggling continues to impress Sinning.

"Douglas County has the best people in the world who are very supportive of the food shelf," she said. "People are phenomenal."

So far, donations have been keeping up, but there is always the need for both food and cash donations - a demand that will most likely increase in the next few months.

Because March is Food Share Month in Minnesota, monetary donations are matched by Minnesota Food Share. With these matched cash donations, low-cost food can be purchased.

All donations can be dropped off at the Douglas County Food Shelf, 1203 Lake Street in Alexandria, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monetary donations can be mailed to Douglas County Food Shelf, P.O. Box 1324, Alexandria, MN 56308. (This address has been corrected from the previous story.)

To make an appointment to receive food, call Wings Family Supportive Services at (320) 763-6638.

Facts about the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf

• The local food shelf started in July 1982 as an outreach mission of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church. It started in the attic of the church.

• In the mid 1980s, it moved to its present location at 1203 Lake Street, near the church. Alexandria Technical College furnished the labor for the building.

• About four years later, the building was doubled in size.

• In 2001, a final addition was built. The building is now 96 feet by 24 feet.

• In October 2007, Alexandria Technical College students built a 24-foot by 36-foot garage on-site for storage.

• The food shelf is staffed with volunteers; there are no paid employees.

• Typically, there are about 30 volunteers at the food shelf. Many have served there for 20 years.

• Three or four stockers arrive at 8 a.m. every day and spend about one and a half hours replenishing the shelves.

• Two volunteers are scheduled for each shift to assist customers.

• The food shelf is open for appointments Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be scheduled by calling Wings Family Supportive Services at (320) 763-6638. The food shelf is also available for emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

• In 2007, 6,405 individuals were served through the food shelf. In 2008, that number rose to 7,300.

• January 2008 saw an increase of 20 percent over the previous January.

• No one has ever been turned away because of a lack of food.

• New clients can come to the food shelf once a month for three months. After that, they can come in every 60 days.

• Each person is allotted about 50 pounds of food per month.

• Food comes from a wide variety of sources, including donations from members of the community and local businesses, and food purchased with cash donations.

• Food shelf clients must live within Douglas County.