words by KAYLA COTE VAN RENSBURG
photography by DENNIS KRULL, 5 FOOT 20 DESIGN LOUNGE
compassion for nutrition how the emergency food pantry provides to those in need
magine yourself in line at the grocery store, counting down the seconds until you can pay, loading them up and moving on with your day. Now, imagine as you are walking to your car, all the groceries in your cart disappear in the blink of an eye. Immediately, anxiety sets in and you ask yourself this question: How will you provide healthy meals for yourself or your family?
Many people in our community face questions like this every day. Based on income, statistically one in nine people in Cass and Clay counties live in poverty. That means one in nine people may not have access to healthy food to put on their table. Chances are you know someone who has experienced a level of poverty.
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One organization that is working hard to make a change is the Emergency Food Pantry, which provides healthy food to families living in poverty. Most people who visit the food pantry are working one or more jobs or have recently lost a job. Other factors such as fire or illness can push a person over their means to afford food or other basic necessities. The organization was established in 1972 as a result of an idea that came from a social work class at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1970. The organization has a total of four staff, including executive director, Stacie Loegering. When she took the position nearly four years ago, Loegering and her newly hired staff managed around 50 regular volunteers. Today they manage around 170 regular volunteers and numerous partnerships.
The Emergency Food Pantry provides food to clients in a variety of different ways. The lobby, located in the front of the building, is open daily to families in need, with a refrigerator as well as two shelves typically stocked with bread and other items that are needing to be eaten within a couple of daysâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; time. A client is eligible to receive a full food basket once every two months. Clients can pick from a menu of that day's available foods, as well as write in a list of items they need that are not on the menu. A volunteer then brings them to the back area to shop for the remainder of their cart. The shopping experience includes choosing from a variety of foods, such as deli items, meats, dairy, bread, fresh vegetables and more. The staff works hard to provide clients with well-balanced items. Items like peanut butter and tuna are regularly stocked by the organization's dollars. Loegering says, "It's
important to keep those two options available so we are offering different nutrients within the basket." Among the items they receive is a pre-made bag, which has basic foods, toilet paper and a bar of soap. Loegering says, "If a family can't afford food, they likely can't afford general toiletries." Their organization makes it a point to go beyond food by providing other types of products, such as a grant-funded vitamin program for women who are expecting. They also have an area for specific household and hygiene items. They rely on donations for these types of products and always try to provide them as they can. Funded by a local church, the birthday bag for kids contains a cake mix, frosting and a handcrafted card made by local youth. They've trained their volunteers to watch for any items that fit the need for dietary restrictions, such as glutenfree breads or non-dairy milk. They are aware of other dietary restrictions