By Paige K Slighter
Addressing Increased Needs
The Coronavirus has left many around the world struggling with food insecurity, and Minnesota is no exception: our food shelves have seen a spike in families and individuals needing assistance. For some, it’s their first time receiving this kind of help due to the rise in unemployment. In an article for KARE 11, Second Harvest Food Bank predicted a growing surge in hunger for Minnesota. They estimated that, “by August, more than one in eight people will be struggling to put meals on the table.” Hunger Solutions, another anti-hunger organization, believes that for many, food shelf visits have become “the ‘new normal.’”
Caring for the nutrition of families and communities in St. Paul is nothing new for our partners at Merrick Community Services. They stand as one of the oldest nonprofit agencies in Ramsey County. Providing food aid and stability for those in need has always been their “normal,” but they too have seen a rise in food shelf participants, and they are preparing for an even bigger surge in the coming weeks. Since COVID began, we have been helping them keep the food shelf running at our location while they serve at Arcade Street. Joshua Bau, Merrick’s Nutritional and Independence Services Manager, said, “Our numbers are up from the same time last year from serving 720 families a month to over 1,100. Which is roughly a 34% increase.”
Woodland Hills staff serve 80-85 families a week, distributing emergency food boxes for curbside pickup. We are so thankful for everyone who has continued to contribute faithful prayers and financial support during this difficult time. You are truly helping provide a lifeline for vulnerable members of our community. One of our regulars recently shared her story with us, and we were blessed by it. We hope you are, too.
Gwen has been picking up groceries from Woodland since last fall. She first looked into the opportunity because she had family living with her that needed assistance. Two of her adult children are legally blind, as well as her grandson who is blind and on his last round of chemo. Their financial aid was cut, so they were no longer able to afford groceries. Her elderly aunt also needed support due to low income.
Gwen’s aunt lives in a high-rise condominium where the majority of the residents are 60 and older. When she first started receiving food from Gwen, she would leave whatever she didn’t need on a table for other residents to take. She noticed that the table was always empty afterwards and wondered if there might be others who were experiencing hunger. When Gwen explained this story to our staff, we were able to get her signed up for more food.
Now, when Gwen picks up her boxes, she brings them home where she and her daughter sort the food into categories: produce, meat, dairy, dry food, treats, etc. Then they bring everything to her aunt who sets it out on tables for the community to choose from, almost like grocery shopping. Gwen said, “They are so excited when I arrive, I feel like Santa Claus handing out gifts. This is such a wonderful way to help.”
Many of these elderly individuals have not left their building since March, when the pandemic began. They are afraid to go outside knowing that there’s the possibility of illness. Some of them do not have transportation or family to rely on.
We are so thankful for people like Gwen, looking out for the wellness of others. It’s been an incredible blessing for us to be able to come together and serve our neighbors who are struggling with food during this difficult time. Again: we couldn’t do it without all of you, who continue to support the work of our church. So, thank you!