Community Alert

Homelessness Solutions 3

Scott Wopata, executive director of Northfield Community Action Center, in February stands in front of displays at the CAC’s food shelf. With school out, the food shelf needs an estimated 30 volunteers to help clients, stock shelves and rescue food from local shops. (News file photo)

The Northfield Community Action Center Food Shelf is looking for more volunteers after a recent stretch has left the nonprofit with only half of the number of volunteers it needs.

Executive Director Scott Wopata said the food shelf “has been overwhelmed the past week with a large spike in families needing access to food.

“We think it may be related to families not receiving meals now that school is out,” he said. “This has been accentuated by a sharp decline in volunteers, with families going on vacation and students not volunteering in the summer. We have a pressing need for volunteer support to respond to the growing need and stand alongside the families we serve.”

The Northfield Area Food Shelf says it needs personal shoppers, volunteers who shop with people and families accessing the food shelf; produce sorters, volunteers who sort edible from non-edible food beginning at 9 a.m. every day; and stocking, a task described as a continual need that takes place several times every day. Foodbank deliveries come Wednesday morning and are unloaded from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Food rescue is also described as a pressing need.

“We are in need of volunteers to rescue food from Cub, Aldi and Target (starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays,”) Wopata said. “Volunteers must be able to lift up to 50 pounds.”

Food access program manager Dawn Wegscheid said there are only 30 volunteers right now, half of the 60 needed per week.

Wegscheid expressed hope that renovations made earlier this year will draw more volunteers. The food shelf opened a super-shelf model Jan. 15 after knocking out a few walls and adding a walk-in freezer to the back room. The new model is based on the feedback of consumers who expressed a desire for more fresh produce and healthier food options.

Wegscheid said she has seen reductions in the number of volunteers since the school year ended and families on vacation. But that has created a dilemma because the end of the school year brought an increased need for food shelf services with more children home on a daily basis.

She said the loss of volunteers has resulted in more people having to wait longer to shop as well as difficulties with shelving and food rescue work.

The food shelf is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.

The food shelf, which offers a full grocery shop of food with canned goods, fresh produce, meat, bread and pasta grains, serves approximately 445 households per month and 1,200 people living in the Northfield Public School District.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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