NACE Empty Bowls fundraiser March 15

Eric Hagen
Anoka County Union

The North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf is putting on the eighth annual Empty Bowls fundraiser in a couple of weeks in order to keep up with the increasing need for assistance in the area.

The North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf purchased two office units in the fall of 2012, including a unit it had leased for three years and an adjacent unit. The extra space gives NACE more room to store donated items. Volunteer Paul Guettler of Cedar is shown here loading up items to bring to the main distribution area. Photo by Eric Hagen/Anoka County Union

The Empty Bowls event is from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 19921 Nightingale St. N.W., Oak Grove. The event is sponsored by Lions and Lioness clubs from Cedar-East Bethel, Ham Lake, Oak Grove and St. Francis.

Different soups, chili, breads, homemade bars and soft serve ice cream will be provided to people who give a free will donation. People are also welcome to bring a non-perishable food donation to the event.

For every $1 donated, NACE can purchase the equivalent of 3.5 meals, according to NACE Director Joanne Yackel. The discounted food is purchased through the Second Harvest Heartland food bank.

NACE needs to stretch donors’ dollars as much as possible because more people are needing assistance in this tough economy, Yackel said.

According to Yackel, NACE distributed 269,000 pounds of food in 2011. This compares with 200,078 pounds in 2010, 169,786 pounds in 2009 and 115,755 pounds in 2008.

Yackel said that 2012 has started out busier than the beginning of 2011. Donations typically decrease after the holiday season, which is why March is such a perfect month for the annual Minnesota FoodShare drive, she said. Although food shelves accept and need donations through the year, March has been an emphasized marketing month.

NACE is now getting more fresh produce and baked goods than before, according to Yackel. This past fall, NACE began partnering with the Blaine Super Target at the corner of Highway 65 and 109th Avenue in Blaine. Every Sunday, volunteers drive to Blaine to pick up the donated goods and deliver them to NACE’s East Bethel location.

Last year, 18 million pounds of food was distributed to Minnesota food shelves through the Food Share program, according to Lindsi Gish, associate director of communications at Second Harvest Heartland.

Gish knows that people appreciate the healthier options. Recently, she heard from a man who appreciated being able to receive lettuce and fruit from his local food shelf because he was having trouble stomaching more macaroni and cheese and canned goods.

Hours, volunteering

Hours at the NACE location at 18511 Highway 65 N.E. in East Bethel are 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays, 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 8 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays.

Yackel said more volunteers are needed to pick up food from the Blaine Super Target between 8 and 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings. If interested in volunteering for NACE, call 763-434-7685.