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Neighbors encouraged to remember food shelf in holiday traditions

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Consider donating favorite holiday foods or cost spent on gifts to Midway Food Shelf

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
This holiday season, consider donating the food you look forward to feasting upon yourself.

“The biggest challenge we face during the holiday season is getting the food people want for the holidays,” observed Keystone’s Midway Food Shelf site manager Deb Amacher. “It’s really tough to get.”

Just as the general population does, those coming to the food shelf crave ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberries, bread and rolls, vegetables and pies.

Those who use the food shelf are grateful for what is there, but Amacher can see the disappointment in their eyes when the cherished food items aren’t available.

As the clients thank her and say, “God Bless you,” Amacher responds with a thank you of her own. “I’ll take all the blessings I can get,” she explained.

Some people have found creative ways to incorporate the Midway Food Shelf into their holiday traditions.

“We have a few families who donate the cost of their holiday meals or celebrations to the food shelf, to provide the same for other families,” pointed out Keystone Director of Basic Needs Christine Pulver. “A few other donors give the amount that would have been spent on holiday gifts.”

One of the largest food shelves in Minnesota
The Midway Food Shelf, 1916 University Ave., is one of three brick and mortar sites in Keystone’s Basic Needs Program, and has been operating for over a decade. The other two are in the North End and Roseville. The program originated at the Merriam Park community center in the 1980s.

Photo right: The most popular items include rice, milk, juice, cereal, bread, peanut butter, and produce, according to Midway Food Shelf Site Manager Deb Amacher. “Most people are looking for meat,” she added. “Meat is so expensive.” Keystone aims to give families access to healthy choices and supplemental food sources to keep families on the right track – empowering them to build self-sufficiency and healthy eating habits. (Photo submitted)

In all, Keystone reaches more than 30,000 individuals in Ramsey County through a variety of programming and human services. Its name comes from a central wedge-shaped stone of an arch (a keystone) that locks the parts together and supports the whole, a fitting description for the organization as it serves and strengthens the community.

In 2015, Keystone also launched the Foodmobile, a mobile food shelf that brings food directly to people with transportation barriers. The Foodmobile offers 23 distributions every month, stocking fresh, frozen, and refrigerated food items.

Through its four food shelves, Keystone provides emergency food services to an average of 8,000 individuals each month. Keystone expects to distribute 2.4 million pounds of food in 2017.

“This program is one of the largest food shelf programs in the state of Minnesota,” pointed out Pulver. “This program provides critical support to our neighbors in need.”

Pulver has served in her role for nearly 11 years and has seen the impact of practical services to stabilize individuals and families and help them move in positive directions.

Photo left: Keystone expects to distribute 2.4 million pounds of food in 2017 to an average of 8,000 individuals each month, including folks like Dennis Jacobson. The people who use the Midway Food Shelf most include retirees with limited incomes, disabled veterans, veterans in general, and homeless individuals, according to site manager Deb Amacher. The largest group is single men. Many don’t have access to stoves and instead rely on microwaves at convenience stores to heat up their food. (Photo submitted)

At its basic, the Midway Food Shelf serves as a place where people can get food. “It helps people get through the month,” remarked Amacher. “It helps so many people.”

To be eligible for food shelf services, one must establish a need; have an income within 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; and live in the Keystone service area, which includes downtown St. Paul to Roseville, Little Canada to the Midway and the North End areas of St. Paul.

The people who use the Midway Food Shelf most include retirees with limited incomes, disabled veterans, veterans in general, and homeless individuals. The largest group is single men. Many don’t have access to stoves and instead rely on microwaves at convenience stores to heat up their food, observed Amacher.

When they arrive, “I think they’re expected to be treated poorly, but they’re not,” said Amacher.

The most popular items include rice, milk, juice, cereal, bread, peanut butter, and produce, according to Amacher. “Most people are looking for meat,” she added. “Meat is so expensive.”

Keystone aims to give families access to healthy choices and supplemental food sources to keep families on the right track—empowering them to build self-sufficiency and healthy eating habits.

Photo left: Volunteers such as Michaela Lauer keep the doors open at the Midway Food Shelf, and welcome clients with a smile on their faces. Neighbors interested in volunteering at Keystone may contact the volunteer coordinator at 651-797-7725. (Photo submitted)

The highest need season for food shelf programs is during the summer when children are not receiving free breakfast and lunch programs—which is usually the lowest donation season. The highest donation season is in November and December.

Keystone receives much of what it offers through the Second Harvest food bank, but sometimes items available are limited.

Recently, the food shelf experienced a few weeks during which some basic items were not available for purchase through the food bank system, including canned vegetables.

Food shelf depends on donations
“Our program is dependent upon community support through donations of money, food, and volunteer time,” remarked Pulver. “Cash donations allow our program to purchase food at prices far below retail and multiply the impact of donors’ gifts. Gifts of cash and non-perishable food can be brought to any of our food shelf sites.”

Donation drop off hours are 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. The food shelf is open to clients from 10–11:30am and 1–3:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Neighbors interested in volunteering at Keystone may contact the volunteer coordinator at 651-797-7725.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” said Amacher. “People leave here smiling.”

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