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Volunteerism, donations power Sleepy Eye Food Shelf

Sleepy Eye Area Food Shelf President Josephine Rose works at the food shelf as volunteer Judy Thompson fills a shelf behind her.

A steady stream of clients walked in and out of the Sleepy Eye Area Food Shelf on a late Monday afternoon.

In the basement of the municipal building on Second Avenue Northwest, where the Sleepy Eye Police Station was formerly located, the food shelf shelves were looking a little bare as the people were served. That’s by design.

“We’re not filling the shelves full here. We’re soon moving to the rear of the Sleepy Eye Community/ Senior Center, 115 2nd Ave. N.E.,” said Sleepy Eye Area Food Shelf Board President Josephine Rose.

The food shelf will move to its new location on Aug. 13 and open in the rear of the Sleepy Eye Community/Senior Center which also houses the Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Aug. 19. Keeping a minimum of food the shelves will make the job of packing and moving easier.

Rose said food shelf visitors should use the rear door of the new building to enter.

Judy Thompson of Sleepy Eye adds food to a shelf at the Sleepy Eye Area Food Shelf.

“Demand is up this time of year, like it is every summer,” Rose said.

Judy Thompson of Sleepy Eye was busy working at the food shelf on a busy Friday afternoon.

“I just like to volunteer and help people,” Thompson said.

Donations of food and money keep the food shelf going. It serves about 2,000 people and 500 families each year.

Donations come from residents, students, the Boy and Girl Scouts, churches, business and industry.

The Boy Scouts collect donation bags from every Sleepy Eye residence each year.

Established in 1986 by Rose’s husband Melvin, partially in response to the farm crisis, the food shelf staff is all volunteers.

Food shelf hours are 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays. The food shelf serves central and western Brown County.

Food shelf board members include Rose, Vice President Jan Zilka, Secretary Ann McCabe, Treasurer Lori Sellner, Matt Vickery, Randy Krzmarzick, Bruce Lokensgard, Judy Thompson, Kamakashi Murthy, Jackie Hutchins, Shawn Kober, Sandy Beito and Lorraine Schroepfer.

The state of Minnesota has many food pantries, distribution centers, assistance programs and non-profit food banks that can provide help to families or individuals facing hardship situations or emergencies.

Most counties have a large number of other financial assistance programs including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food stamps and other government aid.

The Trump administration wants to tighten rules governing who qualifies for food assistance, which could end up stripping more than three million people, including many Minnesotans, of much-needed food assistance benefits.

The new rule would end automatic SNAP (aka food stamps) eligibility for people with slightly higher incomes who receive federal and state aid.

Currently, 43 U.S. states, including Minnesota allow residents to automatically become eligible for food assistance through SNAP if they already receive state and federal aid.

Nearly one in 10 Minnesotans, more than 500,000 people, are food insecure.

Rose said ending automatic SNAP eligibility will have an impact on food shelves.

“I have a hunch it will make food shelves busier. People need us to make ends meet,” Rose said.

For more information including how to donate, become an advocate or sign up, call the Minnesota Food HelpLine at toll-free at 1-888-711-1151, use a chat feature or fill out a form at hungersolutions.org.

HelpLine hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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