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Editorial: Time to give to the Food Pantry

If you’re thinking about giving to the Becker County Food Pantry, now is the time.

You have until the end of the month to donate and still have it count toward Minnesota FoodShare, which will match cash donations dollar for dollar and food donations pound for pound in March, also known as FoodShare Month.

The March food drive is the most important drive of the year for the Becker County Food Pantry.

Food Pantry Director Jack Berenz said the need just seems to keep on growing. The pantry served 15,607 people in 2012, up from 13,024 people the year before.

“Demand is just getting more and more all the time,” Berenz said.

The pantry served 9,554 people in 2010. Back in 2000 it served 3,293 people.

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 at food shelves across the state.

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.

Cash is especially needed now, said Berenz. “Cash is supreme for us,” he said. “When available, we can buy through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) at prices that are just so much better.”

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

The Food Pantry helps the unemployed, the underemployed and the non-employable.

There are both adults and children in the community who depend on the Food Pantry for a good meal.

Nearly 14 percent of Minnesotans reported in 2010 that they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their family needed at some points during the prior 12 months, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center.

The report provides data on food hardship -- the inability to afford enough food -- for every Congressional District, including in Minnesota.

For Minnesota, it found that six of the eight congressional districts had over 12.5 percent of residents reporting food hardship.

That includes 12.9 percent in the seventh district, which encompasses Detroit Lakes and covers most of western Minnesota. And those numbers have not improved since 2010.

The study shows just how much people are struggling, and underlines that far too many of them have found it a challenge to afford enough food for their families.

Many don’t qualify for food assistance: They are working families that just don’t have enough money left over after paying bills to buy food.

They may have a bag of Doritos for a meal, or subsist on mac and cheese, Ramen noodles or some other very inexpensive meal.

The study mirrors other data that Hunger Solutions Minnesota monitors, such as food shelf visits, free and reduced school lunches, and food support use.

This is a great time to donate either cash or canned food to the Food Pantry. Berenz and his crew of faithful volunteers can make your cash donation go a long way.