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Food Shelf needs our help, so it can help

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners is used to hearing appeals from a wide variety of non-profits and other organizations. Each year, as it goes through its budget process, the County Board sifts through those requests and, if it makes an appropriation, tries to balance that with the day-to-day needs of the county.
Tuesday morning, for the first time in recent history, the McLeod Emergency Food Shelf approached the board for help, asking for a $44,000 appropriation to help it meet its operating costs in 2017.
The food shelf’s board of directors indicates that the great recession that started in 2008-09 continues to have a rippling effect today, even as the economy is showing signs of recovery.
A few bullet points:
• The food shelf served 5,432 people at least once in 2015, which equates to slightly over 15 percent of McLeod County’s total population. As Commissioner Sheldon Nies said, that statistic is “staggering.” Compare that to 2010, when the recession was really starting to rage, and when the food shelf served 3,415.
Fifteen percent of our population needing help to meet food needs is indeed a staggering statistic. It means that each one of us, whether we know it or not, has among our friends, family and aquaintenances someone who needs help from the food shelf.
• In 2015, the food shelf distributed 550,543 pounds of food. In 2010, it distributed 272,045 pounds. So that means the pounds of food distributed annually has more than doubled in six years.
• In 2010, the food shelf had a net income of $19,013. In each of the five succeeding years, it experienced an operating loss, culminating with a $53,485 loss in 2015.
• Prior to the recession settling in, the food shelf had invested money in CDs and savings; it has been tapping those savings to cover its operating losses. In 2012, the late Geraldine Tews bequested money to the food shelf. Currently, the balance of that bequest is about $480,000, and the food shelf wants to reserve that money for a countywide emergency, such as a shutdown of a major employer or a natural disaster.
• The food shelf has been operating efficiently. Nearly 97 percent of its expenditures are directly related to the acquisition and distribution of food to those in need. Only about 3 percent is spent on administration.
It’s obvious that the rising costs of operating the food shelf have risen in direct correlation to its need.
The food shelf does not want to get into the situation where it has to turn people away from its doors. Nothing is more disheartening than not being able to fulfill a mission to help those in need.
The County Board has a tough decision to make as to whether it will make the appropriation or not. It has a lot on its plate right now, and its most recent directive to most of its departments is to try to find a way to trim 5 percent in expenditures from their budgets.
But the county is not the only source of funding for the food shelf. We can all contribute.
Unfortunately, we tend only to think of the food shelf during the March food drive, during Halloween food collections or Thanksgiving offerings.
It’s time to start keeping the food shelf in mind all year round. Buy a couple of extra cans of soup then next time you shop for groceries. Make a monetary donation.
The food shelf needs it. So do many of your friends and neighbors.