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Record Editorial - March is MN FoodShare month; give to the pantry

DETROIT LAKES - If you're thinking about giving to the Becker County Food Pantry, now is the time to do it.

Minnesota FoodShare will match cash donations dollar for dollar and food donations pound for pound in March, which is FoodShare month.

The need for food is strong and growing in Becker County.

Just look at the food pantry numbers: In 2000, nearly 3,300 people were served and 1,100 boxes of food given out, for a total of 125,500 pounds of food distributed.

By 2005, those numbers rose to 6,000 people served, 1,900 boxes given and a total of 280,500 pounds distributed.

And those numbers just continued to climb. Last year, the food pantry served nearly 7,500 people and gave out 2,500 boxes containing a total of 324,600 pounds of food.

Demand has been so strong that the food pantry has had to cut back on how much food people are allowed to get each year.

Now, people utilizing the food pantry will only be allowed to pick up food four times (down from five times) in a six-month period.

And small boxes -- for one to two people per household -- have been reduced by five pounds, while large boxes for bigger families have been reduced by 10 pounds.

Food Pantry Director Jack Berenz wants people to know that donations are sorely needed. Donations peaked locally in 2003 and have dropped since then, something Berenz attributes to an economy that has not been kind to the working poor.

The situation is the same across the state, as food shelf usage continues to climb throughout Minnesota.

Last year, there were a record 1.9 million visits and close to 47 million pounds of food distributed, and there has not been a decrease in usage since the 1990s, according to Sue Kainz, Minnesota FoodShare's March Campaign coordinator.

The March Campaign generates half of all food distributed at Minnesota food shelves year-round, and all monetary donations received by FoodShare during the campaign go directly to purchase food in food shelves across the state.

"This year has been financially difficult for so many in our community, that those of us who can afford to give may need to give a little extra to meet the growing need at our local food shelves," said Kainz.

Cash or food can be donated at the food pantry at the county fairgrounds, housed in the building next to the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics and Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes.