Number of residents in need of food shelf help is on the rise
WILLMAR -- Every day Christie Kurth hears another heart-breaking story. There's the two-parent family burdened with the cost of caring for a child with cancer at a metro hospital, a single mom who receives infrequent child support payments, a tee...
WILLMAR -- Every day Christie Kurth hears another heart-breaking story.
There's the two-parent family burdened with the cost of caring for a child with cancer at a metro hospital, a single mom who receives infrequent child support payments, a teen who was kicked out of his home and an elderly couple on a fixed income who have never before had to ask for anything from anyone.
All those individuals have something in common -- they don't have the money to buy food.
As director of the Willmar Area Food Shelf, Kurth is seeing a growing number of people requesting assistance.
During a report Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, Kurth said a record 44,585 pounds of food was distributed by the Willmar Area Food Shelf in 2007 to 4,594 families, 7,968 adults, 6,502 children and 220 people who are 65 years or older. Kurth said 46 percent of those who use the food shelf are adults without children and 40 percent include families with children.
To dispel misconceptions about who uses the food shelf, Kurth said 56 percent are white, 37 percent are Latino, 4.5 percent are multi-racial families and 1 percent are black. Less than 1 percent are American Indian or Somalian.
Eligible recipients are allowed to access the food shelf once a month.
With a 2008 budget of $142,000, the Willmar Area Food Shelf has learned how to operate frugally. Area churches provided the largest donations, about 32 percent of the food shelf's annual budget. Individuals are next, making up 20 percent of the budget. Local businesses and Kandiyohi County each provide 10 percent.
On Friday, as a tornado was moving across the southern tip of Willmar, Kurth was at the Willmar Civic Center at the invitation of individuals participating in the Monaco Coach pre-rally. There she received a gift of $7,200 and 700 pounds of food that was raised during the week by individuals attending the rally.
A vast majority of those live in other states and have no ties to the community, besides parking their RVs in the Civic Center parking lot for a week during their event.
Kurth said those individuals "took pride" in being able to give something back to the community that had hosted them for a week.
Kurth also said several area gardeners donate fresh produce to the food shelf. Last year one farmer brought in 3,000 pounds of produce he had raised.
The county's community service program through the corrections department also raises a garden and donates the produce to the food shelf.
Commissioner Richard Falk praised Kurth for the work she does to "help people in need."
Larry Kleindl, county administrator, said all the organizations that donate to the food shelf should be recognized for the "fabulous job they do."