Pandemic brings changes to operations at Kandiyohi County Food Shelf, along with more clients
The Kandiyohi County Food Shelf is now pre-packaging food for its clients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The food shelf it also offering delivery to seniors and people with disabilities.
WILLMAR — As the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered businesses and job losses rise, the Kandiyohi County Food Shelf has seen an uptick in the number people looking for assistance. During the last few weeks of March, there was a significant increase in the number of people registering to use the food shelf.
"We had almost 200 extra people," said Alana Ziehl, executive director of the food shelf. "It is a major increase."
Senior citizen usage is the largest growth, Ziehl said, perhaps because some of them are afraid to shop at the local grocery stores while the virus is out there. Whatever the reason, Ziehl is grateful to see them.
"I think they have been underserved at the food shelf historically," Ziehl said. "I am glad to see they are utilizing the services."
With the increase in usage comes an increase in the need for food. The food shelf has been able to keep up with demand, as the larger facility allows them to store more product. The deliveries from Second Harvest Heartland have also been growing, to keep the shelves full.
"Our poundage on each truck has increased," Ziehl said. "Our food that we are ordering has increased a lot."
To protect both food shelf staff and volunteers along with clients, the food shelf is no longer allowing members of the public to gather their own groceries. Instead, food shelf workers are pre-packaging boxes of food, which include dairy and meat products. Ziehl said clients might actually be getting more food than normal, but are not able to choose exactly what they want.
"We're trying to do an assortment in there," Ziehl said.
To get their food allotments, clients are to drive to the Willmar building, located at 624 Pacific Ave. S.W., and call the food shelf at 320-235-2641. Over the phone, the registration process will be completed, and then a staff member or volunteer will bring out a box of food to the client's vehicle.
"We probably have six shelves here that are full of boxes," Ziehl said. "Once we get a phone call that they are at the food shelf, it probably takes a minute or two before the food is out the back door."
Ziehl does ask for patience since the food shelf only has one phone line.
A new service the food shelf is offering is food delivery to seniors and people with disabilities or underlying health conditions. The food shelf has partnered with Central Community Transit to provide delivery across the county. Those needing deliveries just have to call the food shelf to set up the day and time.
"They (CCT) have been a huge asset to us," Ziehl said. "They have gone all over. I don't think there is a town in Kandiyohi County they haven't been to yet."
Those who are still able and willing can continue to donate to the food shelf. Donations can be made online at www.kandiyohicountyfoodshelf.com or through the mail. March Food Share month, one of the largest fundraisers for food shelves across the state, has been extended through April 30.
"This would be a perfect time to donate," Ziehl said.
The Kandiyohi County Food Shelf is open from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. The building itself is closed to the public, but staff are on site to assist and can be reached at 320-235-2641.
"Thanks everyone for thinking of us," Ziehl said. "It means so much to us."