Big food drive now underway at Wadena Food Shelf
“Wadena is very good to the food shelf,” said Director Mary Ann Hagen. Residents, churches, businesses, civic groups and others continue to provide support year after year, she said.
WADENA — There’s no shortage of people willing to support the Wadena Food Shelf, said Director Mary Ann Hagen. And thank goodness for that.
“Wadena is very good to the food shelf,” she said. Residents, churches, businesses, civic groups and others continue to provide support year after year, she said.
Which is a hopeful sign for the food shelf’s big food drive this month.
The largest grassroots food and fund drive in the state, the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign, runs Feb. 27 through April 9 this year – and the Wadena Food Shelf is a part of it.
Last year, the local food pantry served 783 families and distributed a total of 45,621 pounds of food, Hagen said.
“We are participating in the March food drive,” she said. “We receive donations from the public, churches, and businesses, and we write some grants,” she said. “We purchase food from the North Country Food Bank and Super One Foods in Wadena.”
Donations of food items, and cash contributions, both count toward matching grants. Both food and cash donations are welcome, Hagen said. “It doesn’t make any difference,” she said. Donations of condiments, as well as personal items like toothpaste, soap, shampoo and diapers are always welcome, and they also count towards the matching grant.
Cash or check donations do offer some flexibility, since food shelves can buy some items for as low as 8 cents a pound through the North Country Food Bank, or receive a discount for buying in bulk.
Cash donations also give the food pantry the flexibility to use the funds where the need is greatest, since the food pantry can buy things a lot cheaper than most people pay to contribute them.
The Wadena Food Shelf, along with the other food shelves, is eligible for grants coming from the Greater Minneapolis Community Connections. The more donations collected, the larger the award from GMCC. All financial contributions to Minnesota FoodShare via the March Campaign go to participating food shelves.
It also helps that the Wadena Walmart donates food every two weeks, which is picked up by a volunteer and brought to the food shelf.
In fact, volunteers do it all at the Wadena Food Shelf. “We’ve done very, very well with volunteers,” Hagen said. “We had four or five people walk in (to sign up as volunteers) in just the last few months – I love seeing that.”
The food shelf is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Thursdays, and “we have four to five people working every time we’re open,” she said.
Volunteers also stock shelves and help unload the food delivery trucks. People can use the Wadena Food Shelf once every 30 days. It’s technically supposed to be an emergency food bank that supplies three to four days worth of food, but it usually is able to supply more food than that, and along with the newcomers are some grateful oldtimers who have come for years and years, Hagen said.
Churches do a lot to support the food shelf, she said. Some churches do special projects, and most congregations in town have a collection box with items to go to the food shelf. This year, one young man has made it a church project to raise donations for the March campaign, she said.
Hagen was head cook at the Wadena High School for 28 years before volunteering at the Food Pantry in 2006. “I just kind of switched from one way of working with food to another,” she said with a laugh.
The food shelf is located at 205 Aldrich Ave. S.E. in Wadena.
(This story has been corrected to reflect the correct hours of operation.)