The Meeker County Food Shelf has proven to be a tremendous help to those in need. But only if those people can actually get to the food shelf.
The food shelf made that easier in December when it launched a mobile outreach program, and numbers indicate the move was a good one.
“We started doing it because we were having people calling in and telling us they weren’t able to access the food shelf due to gas money or lack of transportation in general,” said Jamie Revermann, executive director. “We started with Cosmos because they don’t have a grocery store, so we thought it was really important to bring food to that community.”
While outreach started with only Cosmos, the program expanded to include the entire county earlier this year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food shelf serves 20 Cosmos clients consistently the first Wednesday of the month, and it has about 50 other families requesting food from throughout the county.
That has another area food shelf hoping to emulate the success. The McLeod Emergency Food Shelf go on the road beginning Aug. 10. The new program will bring — twice a month — the food shelf to the McLeod County communities of Plato, Lester Prairie, Winsted, Silver Lake, Brownton and Stewart.
When Meeker County Food Shelf’s mobile program started, food was delivered for pick up at the Cosmos Community Center via a van loaned to the food shelf. Due to pandemic, the food shelf is doing door service now and it will continue to do it that way.
“If somebody calls today (Wednesday), a volunteer will use their own vehicle to deliver food,” Revermann said. “We’re in the process of securing a refrigerated vehicle to use full time. We’re in the fundraising process. There’s a statewide shortage due to COVID. We are hoping to get it within the next few months.”
Access to the Meeker Area Food shelf is once every 30 days, unless a referral is made by someone such as a pastor or teacher they are working with. A written referral isn’t necessary, a call will suffice.
Need is determined on a case-by-case basis.
“We try to be as flexible as possible,” Revermann said.
Earlier this year, the food shelf saw a reduction in use, but that has changed.
“We are seeing an increase now, the last few weeks,” she said. “It’s a significant increase.” With the change in unemployment benefits at the end of the month, Revermann said they are gearing up for an influx of customers.
“We’re expecting a huge increase, maybe not the first week unemployement benefits go down but certainly the second week.”
While COVID has changed the way the food shelf operates, Revermann called it a “little blessing.”
“It has really opened our eyes to doing things differently for our clients,” she said. “We’re really proud of our community that they’re allowing us to do the mobile food shelf. None of this would be possible without their support.”