From May 1-11 during the statewide Spring Forward MN fundraiser, the CAER food shelf is hoping to raise $25,000 for a walk-in cooler expansion and improvements.

“We are at full capacity with our coolers right now,” CAER Executive Director Heather Kliewer said of the need for additional refrigeration space. “Food is stacked up high and it’s very difficult to rotate product — plus it’s not great for the efficiency of the cooler.”

With partial grant funding already received from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless and MidwestOne Foundation for a cooler expansion, CAER is hoping the Spring Forward MN campaign can help raise the additional funding for the much-needed project.

In addition to contributing toward a cooler expansion, each donation made to CAER at www.givemn.org/organization/Community-Aid-Of-Elk-River May 1-11 qualifies the organization for additional funding from the Spring Forward MN prize pool, thanks to the generosity of the Bush Foundation and U.S. Bank.

Last year, CAER provided food assistance to 5,751 individuals. As part of each weekly visit, households seeking food assistance receive produce, dairy, meat, bakery, and nonperishable food items as well as hygiene/household products.

Statewide, 1 in 9 Minnesotans are experiencing hunger. As a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is projected the number of households experiencing food insecurity will continue to increase.

As local families have been experiencing hardship from COVID-19 impacts and other life circumstances, CAER continues to be here to help.

“As we have surveyed clients over and over, the top request is fresh produce. The fresh produce is available, we just need a way to store it and maintain the maximum freshness,” Kliewer said.

Throughout CAER’s 42-year history, community support has been a cornerstone to the organization’s ability to assist people in need. As the organization has opportunities to access additional produce options, a walk-in cooler expansion will allow CAER to provide more fresh, healthy choices for individuals and families.

“This has been a project that I have been talking about for a while,” Kliewer said. “With the grant funding we have received, and interest and support from community members and businesses, we can finally make it happen.”

CAER, located at 12621 Elk Lake Road in Elk River, is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides food and shelter/utility assistance. For more information, visit www.caerfoodshelf.org or call 763-441-1020.

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