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Community members, businesses and organizations came together once again to support those in need of food and support during the Minnesota Food Share March Campaign benefiting the Family Pathways Food Shelfs.

“The campaign this year ran March 1 through April 30; normally it runs the month of March. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the incredible and immense work food shelves have taken on at this time, the March campaign was extended through April 30; this is one additional month,” said Kathy Wills, Family Pathways Director of Food Equity & Access. “The total pounds of food collected was 272,692; $499,088 in financial donations.

“The numbers are up this year because it included two months. That aside, I believe that donors really felt compelled to help this year with the pandemic hitting so hard. Many folks were out of jobs due to the virus, and it touched every family, whether unemployment, sickness, or needing to help their own family who suffered a job loss. This really helped to pull communities together,” Wills added.

The donations each year go to Family Pathways’ food shelves and variety of food programs, which provide meals to more than 100,000 individuals within the service area.

“In 2019 we distributed 2.15 million meals to 103,504 individuals through our nine food shelves; the Mobile Truck distributed 129,686 meals to 5,469 individuals; the backpack program served 17,742 kids, 57,314 meals throughout the school year; and the summer lunch provided 21,460 lunches to kids,” Wills said.

With the donations received through March and April, as well as additional donations throughout the year, Family Pathway will continue to serve families and individuals in need.

“The community needs to (celebrate) how it stepped up and the great response. It showed the pride and hometown feeling that east central Minnesota has. When we needed you most, you rallied and came through for us,” Wills said. “It is so heartwarming to see people donating food and money. It is wonderful to see people donating masks for our staff and volunteers to protect them.”

With the current pandemic, the need for food support, as well as interaction, has increased, according to Wills.

“At first people were scared when they lost their job and panicked about food. I believe they have settled down a bit and are feeling more relieved to know the food shelf is still there for them,” Wills said. “However, now we are seeing folks that need social interaction. When they come to pick up their food, they want to talk. We understand that but we must still keep our social distance from each other. Come to the food shelf if you need assistance; we are here to help.

“Family Pathways is doing everything we can to stay open and have food to feed people. We are trying to prepare for when we open back up and perhaps see numbers go up as the virus spreads more. The need will continue to go up,” Wills added.

In addition to the immense support already received, Wills explained the need for continued support throughout the year in the months to come.

“This is what a community does in a crisis and we hope this support continues,” Wills said. “We believe this will not be gone in a month but will continue on for many months. The community’s help will continue to be a need we have. It is similar to the holiday giving and how quickly that is gone. It is the reason for the March campaign – to restock. We will need to restock shortly again. We are going through this together and need each other very much right now and in the near future. We are not through this yet.”

There are a number of ways to donate, according to Wills, something she hopes will work for everyone.

“Donors can contribute online if they do not want to go out of their house. They can mail a donation to our North Branch Central office. They can still stop at the food shelves and drop off money or food donations,” Wills said. “Right now, due to the virus, our doors are locked, but just call the food shelf when you are outside and let us know you have a donation. We will come out and get your donation of either food or money.

“Without the community support, I do not know how we would have done it and made it this far. A client said, ‘Realize that those with enough, who are willing to share, are very important people.’ We have a lot of very important people in our communities and I hope that they feel warm inside for everyone they have helped with their donation, no matter how small or large,” Wills added.

Local Family Pathways Food Shelf Locations

Cambridge Food Shelf – 1575 First Ave. E., Cambridge, 763-552-3663. Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chisago Lakes Area Food Shelf – 10586 Liberty Lane, Chisago City, 651-257-1308. Open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

North Branch Food Shelf – 6381 Main St., North Branch, 651-674-8313. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mobile Food Truck – 1575 First Ave. E., Cambridge, 763-552-3663. Serves low-income and senior housing; currently 22 various stops.

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