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Summer Hunger campaign returns

A summer hunger campaign by the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties aims to raise funds for mobile food drops in both counties. (Contributed)

Last year, the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties launched a Fight Against Summer Hunger campaign to raise enough money to supply more than 200 families with food for two months.

Through that campaign, approximately $6,000 was raised. This year, the organization's goal is $8,000, which would fund two mobile food drops this summer, in both counties.

Jen Jabas, executive director of the United Way program for the two counties, said the summer months create a need for some families that is filled during the year through its Backpack Attack program and school meals.

United Way's backpack program delivers bags of food to schools, where they are distributed to students in need. Around 500 students are helped in Douglas and Pope counties each week through the program.

In addition, anywhere between one-third to more than half of area students are also eligible for free and reduced-price lunches during the school year.

"School is such a support for these families," Jabas said.

The organization already distributes food once a month through its mobile food drops at New Life Christian Church in Alexandria and at Glenwood United Parish in Glenwood. The distribution is typically on the fourth Thursday of the month at 11 a.m. in Douglas County, where nearly 200 families benefit, and the second Tuesday at noon in Pope County, where about 75 families are served.

The only two requirements to receive four bags of food, Jabas said, are that the person has to eat, and that they live within the county. However, they do have to register the morning of the food drop to give United Way an estimate of how many bags they will be filling that day.

Between 30-50 volunteers in Douglas County unload the food, pack it in bags and pass it out, and those bags can contain fresh produce or freezer items in addition to non-perishables.

For many families, Jabas said, the need for help goes beyond hunger, to financial stability.

"When the dollars are so tight, this is one way to throw support to a family," she said. "It's feeding people when they can't afford it."

There is no cost to families, and while United Way can get the food at a low cost through its supplier in Crookston, it needs donations to support these food programs.

To donate toward the campaign, people can visit the area United Way's website at www.uwdp.org, or text FIGHT to 91999. There, you can contribute any amount. A $15 contribution will supplement a family's food needs for a month. Checks can also be dropped off or mailed to the offices at 503 Hawthorne St. in Alexandria.

"We're fortunate that we have so many generous people who get behind something like this," Jabas said.

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