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Becker Co. Food Pantry says 'help!'

A Becker County Food Pantry user looks over some of the items at the Food Pantry last Tuesday afternoon.

Demand is way up at the Becker County Food Pantry, and it's looking for emergency assistance from everyone in the community this month.

In March of every year, the Becker County Food Pantry holds a month-long food drive where every dollar or pound of food donated helps earn incentive grant money from Hunger Solutions in the Twin Cities.

This year, however, Hunger Solutions is offering a second round of incentive grants for all food and money raised during July, in what is known as the Open Heart Challenge.

"They have $100,000 (in incentive money) to give away," said Food Pantry Executive Director Jack Berenz said early this week.

Just as with the March food drive, he added, all donations received at the pantry's Detroit Lakes facility between now and July 31 will be counted toward the Open Your Heart Challenge grant -- and donations are very much needed, he added.

"Our March campaign was a success, but it (the total raised) was less than 1 percent over the total from the year before," Berenz said.

Meanwhile, he added, usage of the Food Pantry for the first six months of 2011 is up sharply.

"We're at 154 percent of where we were at last year as far as the number of families coming to the Pantry between January and June," Berenz said. "The need is there, and we're looking to get a good push in donations for the month of July."

Part of the reason for the increase, he noted, is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- one of the principal food suppliers for the pantry, "has dictated that we have to allow people to use the pantry once a month (12 times a year).

In the past, usage was limited to 10 times per year, per family, he added.

"that 20 percent automatic increase is part of the 154 percent," Berenz said. "More families are coming in, more people are needing assistance, and food prices are up."

As a consequence, the Food Pantry has once again been forced to decrease the amount of food placed in each distribution box.

"We have had to start decreasing the size of the boxes offered to each family, in order to continue to function," Berenz said.

The actual amount of food included in each box varies according to the size of the family, he added.

Food distribution takes place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. For more information about the Becker County Food Pantry, to volunteer or to make a donation, call Jack Berenz at 218-846-0142.

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