Willmar Area Food Shelf closes New London, Ridgewater branch sites

NEW LONDON--Citing the lack of resources and volunteers, the Willmar Area Food Shelf shut down two branch sites last week--one that served families in New London and the other that filled the food gap to Ridgewater College students.

NEW LONDON-Citing the lack of resources and volunteers, the Willmar Area Food Shelf shut down two branch sites last week-one that served families in New London and the other that filled the food gap to Ridgewater College students.

The decision to close the two satellite food shelves was "not made lightly," said Margaret Sheldon, a board member for the Willmar Area Food Shelf.

With its main facility in Willmar operating at a deficit for the last two years, Sheldon said stocking the two additional sites resulted in the Food Shelf "spreading out our resources and volunteers."

Sheldon said the Willmar Area Food Shelf will try to get people affected by the closure of the branch sites to the Willmar location, or even deliver food orders to those without transportation.

"We hope to bridge any gaps that arise," Sheldon said.


Because of the volume and variety of food available at the Willmar Area Food Shelf, Sheldon said it's hoped the needs of all Kandiyohi County residents will be better met by having only one location in Willmar.

The board voted in July to close the satellite locations, and refrigerators, freezers and remaining food was moved out last Tuesday.

"It feels like a hole there right now," said Rhonda Otteson, of the empty space in New London where families formerly could obtain food two days a week.

All that remains on the shelves is three small jars of baby food.

Since 2009 the Willmar Area Food Shelf had leased space in the Evangelical Covenant Church's Community Outreach Building, which was the former clinic on Main Street in New London.

The Link, a community resource program launched in 2007 by the Ministerial Association of New London and Spicer, also operates a household exchange program at the same location and the church runs a secondhand clothing store there.

Having the programs in one location was designed to help struggling families in northern Kandiyohi County obtain food, clothing and household items.

Otteson, director of planning and development for The Link, said the household exchange program in New London-as well as their outreach services that are based from Faith Lutheran Church in Spicer-will continue.


Word about the closing of the food shelf had resulted in rumors that The Link was also ending, Otteson said, but that is not true.

While she is disappointed the Willmar Area Food Shelf closed the New London branch, Otteson said she understands their budget constraints.

She said The Link does not intend to launch its own food shelf program there. Doing so would be difficult without a partnership with Second Harvest, which provides food to only one food shelf in a county, she said.

Instead, Otteson said, the community may need to look for new ways to fill the existing food gap in conjunction with the once-a-week "Tuesday Table" that will continue to provide free meals to families at area churches.

Jeff Schmitz, chaplain for United Campus Ministries, said Ridgewater College students are already feeling the pinch of not having access to the food shelf that had been located at the campus ministry facility across the street from the school.

That branch location had been there since 2013 and had served about 25 students each month.

"I'm disappointed because it will make an impact with the students, but I'm hopeful the work of the Food Shelf can continue and we can revisit this in the future," Schmitz said.

Schmitz is now soliciting donations of food-peanut butter, jelly, soup and pasta-and toiletries to stock a small pantry at the campus ministry center as a "stopgap" to meet students' needs while also trying to arrange transportation to get students to the Willmar Area Food Shelf location downtown.


Similar to the Tuesday Table meals, Schmitz said about 130 kids eat a free noon meal twice a week at the campus ministry center. The meals not only helps stretch the budget for college students but also helps meet a need for a community connection, he said.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.