By Rachel Kytonen
With usage up 17 percent from last year, the Family Pathways Food Pantry in Cambridge can use your help.
The 2nd Annual Community Food Drive for Family Pathways is underway and needs the community’s support once again to make it successful.
Family Pathways Food Pantry Coordinator Jason Southworth explained March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, which was founded in 1982 as a faith-based response to local hunger. Each March, Minnesota FoodShare directs the March Campaign, the largest food drive in the state and restocks 300 food shelves across Minnesota.
“We are seeing what we call the new face of hunger,” Southworth said. “People who have never needed help in their lives and now with the downturn in the economy, many of them have no idea where to turn or how to get help. These people include our friends, our neighbors and our family members.”
During March, Minnesota corporations will match a percentage of the food and dollars the food pantry receives. The Feinstein Foundation will also match of percentage of what the food pantry receives in March.
John Hirsch, of John Hirsch’s Cambridge Motors, Pastor Bill Berg with New Hope Community Church and Southworth, coordinated the first Community Food Drive held last year, which resulted in 11,508 pounds of food collected and more than $5,000 in donations.
“Community and business involvement is very important because the need is growing at a pace of at least 100 families per year,” Southworth said. “Individual donations are not enough to help with the high volume of food we distribute and the growing need we have here in Isanti County. We need local businesses and employees to participate as well.”
Southworth explained the Cambridge Food Pantry served 4,186 households in 2011, with 570 being new families. Of the 13,891 individuals served, 5,166 were children and 930 were over 65 years old. In total, 471,791 pounds of food was distributed in 2011. The Cambridge Food Pantry serves all of Isanti County.
“Usage at our food pantry is up 17 percent over last year,” Southworth said. “We are currently serving over 450 families per month. That equates to over 1,300 individuals each month. We are distributing over 45,000 pounds of food out of our location each month.”
Southworth encourages all businesses in Isanti County to get involved with the Community Food Drive. As a way to get involved, Southworth suggests setting up a food collection site at your business and ask each employee to donate two non-perishable food items or $2.
“Everyone knows someone whose life has been impacted by the economy,” Southworth said. “Please remember that we are here to help. Your donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Please consider doing a food drive at your businesses or by collecting money donations. Please help us to continue to help our hurting members of the community. We can purchase $5 worth of food for every $1 the community donates to us.”
John Hirsch’s Cambridge Motors has committed to picking up the collections at each participating business and transporting them to the Cambridge Food Pantry. Call Brianna Saterlee at 763-689-7600 to let her know your business is participating in the Community Food Drive and she will arrange a pick-up date for the items.
“All businesses can get involved, as well as schools, churches, hospitals and fast food places,” Southworth said. “We need everyone’s support to help meet the growing need. The food drive ends after the first week of April so we really need our businesses to get involved now.”
Individuals or businesses wishing to drop off donations on their own can bring their donations to the Cambridge Food Pantry located at 1575 1st Ave E. next to Northbound Liquors. Or donations can be dropped off at the Family Pathways Thrift Stores in Cambridge and Isanti that have food drive boxes located near the front of their stores.
Southworth stressed food and monetary donations really make a difference is March.
“The Feinstein Foundation matches a percentage of the monies raised during this critical month. After the holidays, donations of both money and food drop considerably,” Southworth said. “March is the midpoint when we need to increase donations of both money and food to be able to continue meeting the needs of our fellow community members that need our help so very badly.”
The Cambridge Food Pantry is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 7 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information on the Community Food Drive call the Family Pathways Food Pantry in Cambridge at 763-552-3663.