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CEP raises $4,000 for food pantries

DETROIT LAKES - Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program held an internal contest to raise funds for local food shelves.

People got out their checkbooks, wallets and purses and in came the money. Lots of people happily donated to this worthy cause.

CEP has offices in eight locations in their 19-county area: Alexandria, Bemidji, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Little Falls, Moorhead and Wadena.

Their headquarters are located in Detroit Lakes and their customer service centers are located at the WorkForce Centers in their communities. CEP has provided workforce development services to job seekers and employers since 1968.

The fund-raiser was spearheaded by Gail McKenzie, office manager at CEP's administrative office in Detroit Lakes, and involved the partner agencies at the WorkForce Centers where CEP's offices are located.

Partners are Rehabilitation Services, State Services for the Blind and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

A CEP staff person in each location coordinated the local fund-raisers. This first ever agency-wide drive resulted in $4,110 in cash and food donations.

McKenzie researched hunger in Minnesota and was stunned by the numbers. About 992,750 Minnesotans live in households struggling to put food on the table. Fifty-six percent of food shelf users are families with children, and 20 percent are senior citizens.

Since 2000, the number of Minnesota children living in extreme poverty has doubled. Minnesota's children are growing poorer faster than the nation's children overall.

More than 50 percent of adult food shelf visitors are employed. Two-thirds of food shelf users make less than $1,000 a month. Of those who use Minnesota's food shelves, 47 percent of adults and 14 percent of children skip meals.

Food shelf usage is 52 percent higher now than in 2000. During the last year alone, 45 million pounds of food was distributed to Minnesota families.

Food stamps used to be the cornerstone of the programs to alleviate hunger, but only 30 percent of food stamp applicants qualify for the benefit. (Source: Minnesota Food Share)

Executive Director of CEP Dan Wenner said, the organization will continue to support this very worthy cause.

McKenzie said: "I don't plan to wait until next March to donate to the Food Pantry again. I bet they accept donations during any month of the year.

"But, I do plan to lead the fund-raising effort again next March and will work to increase the amount that we are able to collect."