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Maximizing Your Donation to Your Local Food Shelf

July 11, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - If ever there was an ideal time to donate to a local food shelf, it is July. Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless is back with its $100,000 Food Shelf Challenge, which gives grants to local food shelves to leverage local contributions. Around 150 food shelves across the state, from Aitkin to Zumbrota, are taking part in this summer's challenge.

Executive director Arna Yetter says the program is vital, as food shelves - especially in greater Minnesota - are trying to do more with less.

"A large portion of those food shelves don't have any paid staff - they're run strictly by volunteer efforts. They're really scrambling to try try to maximize what they can do."

Among the groups taking part in the challenge is Valley Outreach, Stillwater. Executive director Kate Krisik says her organization gives out around 50,000 pounds of food per month. That's about four times more than just six years ago, she says, and the number of people in need continues to grow.

"Many of them were former donors of ours who have lost their jobs or their homes. Our senior population increased when they lost investment income when the stock market crashed."

Krisik says a boost in donations is especially important at this time of year, with kids out of school. There are no summer feeding programs in Stillwater because the median income is too high, she explains.

"The children aren't receiving the meals that they normally receive at school during the school year. It's also the time of year that people think about donating less often than at any other time of year."

Statewide last year, there were nearly 200,000 child visits to food shelves in July and August alone, 4 percent more than in 2009.

Local food shelf operations participating in the Food Shelf Challenge are listed at

Information about how to donate is available at During the event last year, food shelves raised more than $1 million from their communities.

As part of the challenge this year, Valley Outreach is hosting a "Parrot Head Party and Cruise" on July 28. Information about this fundraising event is available at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN