March is Minnesota Food Share Month. It has also become a month where residents of this state and the nation have been sharing concerns about COVID-19 and even the coronavirus itself.

To protect clients and volunteers, Waconia United Food Shelf will be switching to a drive-through pick up system effective Monday, March 23, according to Associate Director Angela Rud. Bags will be packed with a seven-day supply of food. Clients will stay in their vehicles and volunteers will bring food to their cars.

The local food shelf also will be implementing an early “summer lunch program” for families with students now that those students are missing out on school lunches due to schools being closed by COVID-19. An extra bag of kid-friendly food like cheese sticks, granola bars, mac and cheese and spaghetti will be provided.

While Waconia Food Shelf hasn’t yet seen a spike in clients, as businesses shut down and workers are idled, Rud expects “more people to need our services.”

“We will not be turning anyone away,” she said. “We are working with Second Harvest and The Food Group to stay stocked.”

Rud also indicates that it’s too early to tell if the recent run on grocery stores and supermarkets will affect food shelf donations, but Second Harvest Heartland has issued a plea for donations to provide emergency food boxes so those experiencing hunger can access needed meals while reducing their risk of exposure. 

Locally, both food and money donations are greatly appreciated.

“We can use dollars to buy an extraordinary amount of food from Second Harvest,” Rud said.

Meanwhile,there will be a drop-off station for food items outside Waconia United Food Shelf, located at Main and Elm streets. Some of the items needed include soup, cereal, cereal bars, granola bars, mac and cheese, pasta and pasta sauce, shelf stable canned meals, and health and hygiene products. Please refrain from donating expired foods.

Waconia Food Shelf is working daily with Carver County Public Health to understand current COVID-19 conditions and is taking the necessary precautions to make sure food products and volunteers remain safe, Rud said. She has also been fielding many calls from people who might have been idled from their own activities looking to help.

Food shelf leaders are updating its pool of already active volunteers to see who is still available and will be firming up its new distribution process, then contacting potential new volunteers. The food shelf also will be updating its website so that volunteers will be able to sign up online.

Rud said she also heard of local churches also exploring outreach approaches. So for now she recommends contacting your local church to see if they have an action plan and refer to the Waconia Food Shelf website -- www.waconiafoodshelf.org -- for updates on how to help.

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