Minnesota Food Share Month

The Lonsdale Area Food Shelf has changed its method of distribution this month, taking precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak. Volunteers prepackage food for curbside distribution Thursdays, and younger volunteers are needed at this time. Pictured in 2018, Vi Miller, front, and Lucy Kuchinka helped stock the shelves at the Lonsdale Area Food Shelf. (Misty Schwab/Lonsdale News Review)

<&firstgraph>Lonsdale Area Food Shelf has stayed on top of its game in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, shifting from the client choice model to prepackaged food distribution.

<&firstgraph>Tami Heimer LAFS executive director, said the new process started March 19. Early each week, volunteers prepackage boxes with a variety of food shelf items like canned vegetables, canned fruit, helper meals, breakfast cereals, pastas and rice. Clients may also receive frozen and refrigerated entree meals, if interested.

<&firstgraph>Keeping with social distancing protocol, LAFS volunteers ask clients to pull their vehicles up to the curb, roll down their windows and tell volunteers who they are if they’re not recognized. Volunteers then load the clients’ trunks.

<&firstgraph>“We want to keep it quick,” said Heimer. “We want people to stay in their cars. The least amount of contact anyone can have with each other, the better. If they’re new clients and want to get registered ahead of time, they can either email the food shelf or call the voice messaging answering service. One of the volunteers will call them back.”

<&firstgraph>For clients not yet registered, The Emergency Food Assistant Program<&firstgraph> has given all food shelves authorization to verbally take information from clients without paperwork, said Heimer. This protects both volunteers and clients from handling the same paper and pens. Rather than basing requirements on a monthly income, Heimer said TEFAP last week began basing food shelf qualifications on weekly incomes

Lend a healthy hand

<&firstgraph>At this time, Heimer is on the lookout for young adults, college students or even high schoolers to help with Thursday distributions or prepackaging boxes early in the week.

<&firstgraph>“We’re asking for young folks because a few of our seniors have needed to step back,” said Heimer. “We need people who can lift 20- to 30-pound boxes — lift and put them into the cars.”

<&firstgraph>With a limit on the number of people allowed in the building at once, Heimer said she doesn’t need many volunteers but enough to cover different skill sets. And, of course, volunteers need to be healthy.

<&firstgraph>Heimer said volunteers who have stepped back are doing so to avoid COVID-19 and taking it into their households, where family members may be at higher risk. Those who continue to volunteer during the pandemic take every precaution, and follow a strict criteria of hand-washing, sanitizing and wiping down “anything and everything” more than ever, she said.

Since LAFS is 100% volunteer-run and supported with 80% or more of food and funding from the local community, donations are crucial during the pandemic. Lonsdale Liquor is now the only food collection site in town still open to the public, and monetary donations are needed just as much. While the food distribution systems that have always helped LASF secure food in the past continue doing the best they can, Heimer said there are still fees associated with these systems.

<&firstgraph>“We’re finding it more difficult to be able to source food ourselves, from local retailers or the food bank,” said Heimer. “ … We’re depleting our shelves quickly, and this could go on for quite some time.”

<&firstgraph>To make a donation, visit lonsdaleareafoodshelf.weebly.com<&firstgraph>.

Food From the Heart update

<&firstgraph>Another food distribution resource in Lonsdale ends its program next month for matters unrelated to coronavirus.

<&firstgraph>The program, Food From the Heart, will have its final pickup from 10 to 11:30 a.m. April 11 at Trondhjem Lutheran Church, as Channel One Regional Food Bank has stopped its distribution to the mobile pantry.

<&firstgraph>“Channel One has stopped it, not us,” said Harold Kuchinak, a Food From the Heart volunteer. “We’re sorry for that, but we would like to thank all the volunteers who helped us out.”

<&firstgraph>The best volunteers can do now, he said, is steer previous clients to Hope for the Community, which distributes food from 4 to 6 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month at Wagner Park in Elko New Market.

Lucy Kuchinka, who also volunteers with Food From the Heart, said Hope for the Community allows clients to pick up boxed food for someone else, a particular convenience for those who can’t drive.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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