The city of Nisswa donated $25,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes last month as food shelves across the state struggle with rising food prices and demand.
In March, when the Lakes Area Food Shelf first began to see a spike in visitation, they gave presentations to Nisswa and other area city councils to ask for their help.
Nisswa City Council member Jesse Zahn drove the decision to target the money to the food shelf. He was passionate about the need to spend federal dollars to directly assist local citizens.
The council unanimously agreed and voted June 21 to donate to the food shelf.
“We’re really happy to have it and honored to have it,” said Mark Casey, Lakes Area Food Shelf board member. “But that money is already gone.”
LAFS and other food shelves are seeing the same things shoppers are seeing: higher prices and less food available.
“These are our friends; these are our neighbors,” said Kathy Adams, LAFS director. “We’re a community, and that’s what the food shelf is for.”
As food prices go up, many families have to turn to other resources like the food shelf. Even as their prices rise, food shelves have seen a dramatic increase in community need in the last year.
In 2021, LAFS served 4,657 people. Through June 2022, they’ve served 5,000.
Both LAFS and the Pine River-Backus Family Center’s food shelf in Pine River have also struggled with sourcing some foods. The shelves get a majority of their food from Second Harvest, a food shelf distributor that allows shelves to purchase upward of three times as much food for the same price as they would at a typical grocery store.
Through the summer, like other shoppers around the country, Second Harvest was unable to provide some products, like peanut butter or bread and other grains.
Despite these difficulties, the food shelves persevered. They bought from local grocery stores, accepted donations and saw incredible support from their communities, like the donation from the Nisswa City Council and donations from area organizations, businesses, churches and grocery stores.
Inflation remains high. While the cost of living remains high, more people may need to turn to the food shelf for help.
“We see on average five to 10 new families a week, which is huge for us,” Adams said in July.
Some people may be nervous or hesitant about visiting a food shelf, but both the Pequot Lakes and Pine River food shelves strive to be welcoming and respectful.
“Your privacy is important,” said LuAnn Gravelle, office manager and food shelf coordinator in Pine River. “We want you to feel like you’re coming to a grocery store.”
While ideally prices will drop, food shelves rely on the continual support from the community to continue to exist and serve those in need.
Monetary donations are best for food shelves that have the connections to resources like Second Harvest, where they can purchase more with the same amount someone else could at a grocery store.
Shelves also appreciate food donations, both fresh produce and nonperishables, volunteers and support for their events.
Lakes Area Food Shelf’s annual fundraiser, the Nisswa Christmas Home Tour, is especially important to them. This October will be the 31st fundraiser, with all ticket proceeds going to the food shelf.
For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit lafshometour.com.
Both food shelves are appreciative of the help they receive from the community and want to make sure that it is known.
“Our continued support from everyone is so important to us,” said Gravelle. “Thank you.”
Megan Buffington, Echo Journal reporter, may be reached at email@example.com. She is a 2021 Pequot Lakes High School graduate who attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln