Rising costs, need affect food donation programs

For more information on how to help or how to get help, visit or call 320-762-8411.

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Volunteer Karen Lund shelves bottles of water at the Outreach Food Shelf in this file photo.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo
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ALEXANDRIA — The cost of food is up 60% from what it was at this time last year.

This has led to an increased need at organizations like the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf in Alexandria.

"We're down in donations and we're up in need,, and the cost is just skyrocketing," said Bernice Wimmer, executive director of the food shelf.

This is coupled with the fact that the holidays are approaching.

"We see the increased need," Wimmer said. "For example, last year, we got 100 turkeys. This year we got 76, and it's going to cost us double what it cost us last year."


But even without the holiday season, the need remains.

"I was looking to see how many people are being served in our county, and when I looked in 2020 with the census, it showed that 7.85% of Douglas County's population is poverty level," Wimmer said. "Multiply that by the number we have and it equates to approximately 3,000 people, which is a lot. We served about 1,000 in 2020. … That means we're serving about a third of the population that are in poverty. That reinforces that to everyone who is trying to help the hungry, we need more than just us."

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Bernice Wimmer is the executive director of the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf.
Echo Press file photo

Wimmer said there are many other area entities that help the cause, from individuals and businesses to schools and churches.

Along with some other pantries and food banks, the food shelf will be participating in a hunger workshop with Horizon Public Health on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

"One of the things we want to talk about is how we can give them a hand up, and help them, whether it be gardening or how to cook with inexpensive supplies," Wimmer said.

The food shelf currently gives once-a-month supplemental groceries for a family.

"We do a lot more than the state average," Wimmer said. "The state average is 25 pounds per person, and we do more like 75."

This can be difficult, as family sizes are getting bigger and the homeless population is increasing, Wimmer said.


"I had a woman call two weeks ago and say there's a woman living in the Walmart parking lot with her 13-year-old daughter," Wimmer said. "It's hard, because we don't have a homeless shelter. We have Hope Haven, which is wonderful. That starts in December. Until then, (I said), 'We can give her food.' … It's hard, because her car was packed with all her belongings."

Wimmer reiterated that the food shelf is currently serving about a third of the people currently living in poverty in Douglas County.

"One of the things that I personally think is that it's hard for people to ask for help," she said. "We just want to say that we try to preserve dignity and try very hard to keep everything confidential. People who need help, please reach out. We're here for them, and we'll do everything we can to make sure that they have good, healthy food available."

The food shelf tries to direct most of its funds toward getting basic supplies, which are getting more expensive, and it also receives donations of food.

For example, the food shelf recently received a donation of two steers — more than 900 pounds of beef. Of the turkeys the food shelf distributes, 50% of them are donated, as well.

When donating food, Wimmer said it's important to be aware of the safe-to-eat-by dates rather than the expiration dates on packages. These are published by the USDA.

Recently the food shelf had some donations without the dates, but they did have a four-digit code that translates into the production date.

"I called the company … and their guidelines were, three years after the produce is canned, it's good. Meat is five years after the production date. You wouldn't think that," Wimmer said. "We as Americans waste about 40% of our food because of those published expiration dates, (but) that food is still safe to eat."


Wimmer thanked the organizations that continue to donate food, including recent donations from the National Honor Society, which brought in almost 1,300 pounds of food, and the Dakota Supply Group, which brought in 3,500 pounds.

Additionally, more donations will be collected by the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train on Dec. 15 and by the Paulzine family, who decorates their house in rural Garfield with elaborate light displays and asks for donations to the food shelf as an entry fee.

"It's a really cool way to help," Wimmer said.

There are many ways people can help, either through donations or volunteering their time, Wimmer said.

"Every little bit helps," she said. "It takes a community to feed the hungry."

For more information on how to help or how to get help, visit or call 320-762-8411.

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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