By Nicole Brodzik
The month of March marks the Minnesota Food Share campaign throughout the state. Westonka Food Shelf has planned a number of events to help with their fundraising efforts during this time, including multiple “Stuff the Bus” events, an omelette breakfast and Pack the Pews at local churches.
“It’s basically a statewide initiative at the state level to raise food and funds,” Food Shelf Volunteer Michelle Repp said. “We use March as our primary time of year to solicit funds and make people aware of food insecurity in our community.”
Repp said that, contrary to what people may expect, many of the people who use the food shelf to meet their needs have jobs, but are considered underemployed.
“There are people from all walks of life who come in and rely on these services,” she said. “Our population here pretty much mirrors the state population of 1 in 10 Minnesotans facing food insecurity.”
The goal this year is bring in $60,000 and 30,000 pounds of food in the month of March. Last year, the shelf spent around $117,500 on food and occasional refrigeration costs. They expect the food shelf will need closer to $125,000, so that $60,000 would go a long way towards serving their community, according to Westonka Food Shelf Director Shelly Sir.
“We distributed just shy of 400,000 pounds of food last year,” Sir said. “It helps that we’re all volunteers and we pay no rent. We have no marketing costs. All of the money goes towards food and that’s incredibly rare.”
Sir and Repp have around 64 other regular volunteers who help take shifts and go on runs to pick of food for the shelter. Repp credits that to the Westonka community and its ability to rally together to help the less fortunate.
“Last year we had over 10,000 hours of volunteer work that was put in,” Repp said. “Over the course of the year last year, we had about 189 unique volunteers.”
The food shelf also operates out of the Grace Family Center, where they do not pay rent or utilities thanks to Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church who donates the space out for their cause. Because of these two factors, all $117,500 that was brought in last year, went back into food and helping feed members of the Westonka community.
Repp said that while food donations are much appreciated, the food shelf really is hoping for more monetary donations.
“Because of our relationship with our food shelf partners and our food rescue program, we can make a single dollar go exponentially further,” Sir said. “If you donate $10, that’s like donating $100.”
The increase in expenses this year is thanks to a new initiative to help patrons get complete meals and more nutritional options.
The Westonka Food Shelf serves Mound, Minnetrista, Navarre, Minnetonka Beach, Spring Park, St. Bonifacius, Tonka Bay, Independence and parts of Orono. For more information, become a volunteer or a patron of Westonka Food Shelf, visit http://westonkafoodshelf.wixsite.com/westonkafoodshelf