WILLMAR -- Even though the economy is down, food and cash donations to the Willmar Area Food Shelf were up during the annual Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign to feed the poor. The Food Shelf received 118,018 co-mbined do-nations of pounds of foods and dollars to-ward the 120,000 goal during the month-long drive, up from the 91,000 combined pounds and dollars donated during the 2008 campaign, said Christie Kurth, Food Shelf executive director. She said this year's goal was unchanged from 2008.
"As the campaign began, I was reserved in thinking what we would really receive this year for donations because of the economy. But it just shows that people in the toughest times we've seen in quite a while will still step up and give and even give a little more maybe,'' said Kurth.
FoodShare, founded in 1982, is a program of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, recruiting thousands of congregations, businesses, civic groups and schools to raise cash and food to feed needy individuals and families in Minnesota.
The Food Shelf, also established in 1982, saw a 28 percent increase in the number of families needing food assistance from 2007 to 2008.
This was Kurth's fourth campaign as Food Shelf director. She said the Food Shelf hasn't met the annual goal but has increased its numbers every year, with 2009 being the best year yet.
Kurth praised efforts by local radio stations, businesses, churches and an increased number of individual donations for helping the Food Shelf toward the goal. Donations continued right up to last Friday's deadline.
"The community really got behind us this year and really helped us out,'' said Kurth.
The Food Shelf will receive a grant from FoodShare based on the total number of pounds and dollars donated. Last year, the Food Shelf received about $6,000, and Kurth said the Food Shelf should receive a larger grant this year because donations increased.
The grant amount won't be announced until Minnesota FoodShare has a celebration April 29 in Minneapolis.
"At that time, we will find out where we placed in the state among the food shelves and we will also then find out how much our grant will be,'' she said.