From Sandra Burke
Winona Volunteer Services
Where do you go when you run out of money and you need food for yourself and your family? Many Winona residents are asking themselves that same question and then are finding their way to the local food shelf. In fact, 746 households (representing 1,745 individuals) visited the Winona Volunteer Services Food Shelf in October alone. So far this year, 279 new families have signed up for the food shelf for the first time, a 45% increase over 2007.
Our local food shelf is experiencing an overwhelming demand for our services. Compared to last year, we are serving 11% more households on average every month than in 2007; we are serving 20% more than we did in 2005, and 80% more than we did in 2002. Right now, we are keeping up with the demand by using our donated food dollars to purchase food from our food bank, Channel One. But the year is not over, and the families keep coming for food. In fact, we handed out 30,601 pounds alone in October.
Is it a sign of the times that so many new people are seeking help from the food shelf for the first time? They tell us that their hours have been cut from their job, they say their pay checks are not enough to make ends meet, and sometimes they say they lost their job. They enter our office with hesitation and disbelief. How could things get so bad that they need help from a food shelf? They used to donate to the food shelf but now they need the food themselves. Some of them choke back their tears as they answer our eligibility questions; some give us a hug and a promise that once they get back on their feet, they won’t use the card anymore; some say “I just want to make sure my kids can eat;” and many say “thank you, you don’t know how this helps me.”
On any given day the food shelf is stocked with basic food items. When someone gets the 12-month punch card, they are assigned a set number of points based on the number of family members living with them. Households with one, two or three individuals get 16 points, households with 4 or 5 get 21 points, households with 6 or 7 get 22 points, and households with 8 or 9 get 26 points and so on. To give you an idea of what someone takes home with 16 points, here is what a shopper selected Thursday evening during their monthly visit: a bag of rice, 2 bags of frozen pork patties, 2 jars of peanut butter, oil, macaroni and cheese, a can of salmon, 2 cans of soup, frozen lasagna noodles with cheese, 2 cans of fruit, a can of tomato paste, a jar of jam and 1/2 gallon of milk.
This is the twentieth year for the “10 Days of Giving” community food drive. WVS relies on the “10 Days of Giving” food drive to provide 30% of the food and cash donations designated for the food shelf. This food drive plays a huge role in making sure no one goes hungry in our community. Please, take this opportunity and participate in this community- wide food drive. Help WVS help our neighbors ease their anguish and uncertainty about how to feed themselves and their families.