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MAC/NAPS program helps feed the hungry

Did you ever look at those television ads for "adopting" children in Third World countries, and hear how just a few dollars a week could feed and clothe that child for a year? Did you find yourself reaching for that telephone?

Unfortunately, it's not just in those Third World countries that mothers, children and seniors sometimes find themselves skipping meals because their cupboards are bare.

"There are literally thousands of people here in Becker and surrounding counties wondering if there's enough food left in the house to feed the family," according to Karla Mitchell, program coordinator for the supplemental nutrition program Mothers And Children (MAC) and Nutrition Assistant Program for Seniors (NAPS).

"It isn't just over in the third world countries where mothers, children and seniors go without eating one or two meals. It's happening right in our own back yard!"

So what can be done to help? One resource is the MAC/NAPS program, which provides income-eligible participants with free supplemental USDA food packages, once each month.

Each MAC/NAPS food package, or box, contains approximately $50 worth of food to help participants offset grocery bills on a monthly basis. Each box contains canned meat, vegetables, fruit sauce, cereal, pasta, rice or instant potatoes, canned milk, dry beans or peanut butter, dry milk, fruit juice, and a box of American cheese.

"Last year, there were 4,000 boxes of food distributed throughout our surrounding area," Mitchell said. "There are still a lot more people who can benefit from this (program). There's a very large need out there."

But even though these packages are supplied by Second Harvest in the Twin Cities, via the U.S. government, distribution of the packages depends upon community support, according to Mitchell.

"Without the help of our community leaders, this program will be in jeopardy," she said. "All we need is 12 local businesses or service organizations to each adopt one month, to secure this program that helps feed many mothers, children and seniors for one more year."

The operating costs for the program amount to approximately $500 a month, Mitchell said, and are currently funded entirely through donations.

"This program is basically run on volunteers and donations," said Mitchell. Hers is the only paid position for the program. She has volunteers from the Detroit Lakes Lions Club and the Becker County DAC who come in to haul the boxes in and out of the church (Lions Club members haul boxes on Thursdays, and DAC volunteers on Fridays).

Though they do not provide funding directly, Mahube and Becker County Human Services do provide in-kind donations of office supplies a few and other necessities.

Those who feel their families might benefit from this program can sign up via Becker County Community Health, 218-847-5628; seniors can also sign up directly at the pickup site, which is at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 1400 Corbett Rd., Detroit Lakes.

Those eligible for assistance include non-breast feeding mothers of children between seven months to one year of age; children from age 5 through their 6th birthday; seniors age 60 and above.

All participants need to be income eligible and legal residents of the state of Minnesota, though they do not need to be U.S. citizens. Thus, those participating in the program for the first time need to be certified as eligible, by bringing the following forms of identification: A piece of recently postmarked mail with your name and current address, a photo I.D. or passport, knowledge of current gross monthly household income, postpartum mothers and children need a WIC folder, birth certificate or other documentation of a child's birth date. Certification must be reviewed every six months for MAC, and every year for NAPS.

Participants can pick up their boxes on the first Thursday or Friday of each month at St. Luke's, Mitchell noted (this month's pickup was postponed until Monday and Tuesday due to inclement weather last week).

Thursday pickup is between 3:30-5:30 p.m., and Friday pickup is between 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Locally, the MAC/NAPS program is made possible through he cooperative efforts of Second Harvest Heartland (an affiliate of America's Second Harvest and United Way), Mahube Community Council, Becker County Human Services, Becker County Community Health, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Mary's Regional Health Center, the Becker County Coordinator on Aging, and the Becker County Sentence to Service program.

Other local business, organizations and dedicated volunteers also provide invaluable contributions, Mitchell added.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454