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Island Party for Food Pantry is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at Central Market

The Becker County Food Pantry has seen demand soar by over 50 percent since June, and is in dire need of donations of cash and food. Those donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar and pound-for-pound this month, and today is the perfect time to do it.

Parrot Heads President Jim Brogren says the local organization is throwing an "Island Party for the Food Pantry" at Central Market from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, where people can help out the Becker County Food Pantry by sporting tropical gear, listening to steel drum music and enjoying good food.

"(This event) raises awareness for the need for the food shelter," Brogren said. "A little bit helps a long way."

While volunteers collect free-will donations by serving brats, chips and pop in the store's parking lot, shoppers can purchase food bags to be donated to the local pantry.

According to Brogren, the weakened economy continues to cause unemployment to rise in the area. In recent years, the Parrot Heads, who thrive on organizing various charity events every year, have watched the shelves at the Becker County Food Pantry become lighter and lighter.

"Right now, their shelves are bare," Brogren said. "Anything we can give is greatly appreciated by them."

Similar to the Parrot Heads, Pantry Director Jack Berenz has gotten a bird's-eye view of the economy's negative side effects.

"We're having a tremendous increase in the number of people coming for food," said the director of 14 years. "We're trying to maintain adequate supplies for the people who need it."

More specifically, Berenz says that traffic to the area food pantry has increased 54 percent since January -- a number that makes him happy to know that the Parrot Heads are on his side.

"They've helped us in the years past," Berenz said. "We appreciate them helping us, there's no doubt about it."

The director said he first heard of the Parrot Heads' idea to throw an "Island Party" last Thursday. In a matter of minutes he fell in love with the idea.

"I think it's a great program," Berenz said.

The idea was also spur of the moment for the employees at Central Market, according to Grocery Manager Dave Heisserer. But they, too, were quick to respond to the pantry's need for supplies.

"We're hoping to show (people) what $5 and $10 buys," said Heisserer, who explained that shoppers interested in giving to the pantry can fill $5 and $10 bags with recommended food items.

Heisserer also said that another alternative to donating grocery bags is providing a free will offering for the snacks in the parking lot or giving money directly to the pantry.

"Hopefully, we'll see a lot of people come out and support (the Island Party)," Heisserer said.

The Island Party is scheduled to run from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, during which Dave Herzog will perform on his steel drums.

Located in nearly all 50 states and seven countries, the Parrot Heads make it their goal to donate time and money to organizations in need. The Lakes Area group has recently worked with other food pantries around the area, including the Dakota Foundation Food Pantry and Fargo-Moorhead Emergency Food Pantry.

More information on the non-profit organization can be found by visiting

As the director for the food pantry, Berenz understands that tragedy can strike anyone at anytime. Therefore, he wants people to know that, thanks to teamwork between groups like the Parrot Heads, Central Market and other volunteers, there is always help available.

"These sort of things happen," Berenz said. "That's what we're here for."