food boxes

Free boxes of food will be distributed Friday at Community Pathways in Owatonna to area resident in need. (People’s Press file photo)

Thanks to a new federal program, Community Pathways of Steele County will distribute 450 boxes of food to those in need Friday morning.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – also known as CFAP – is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that assists farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program uses funding and authorities provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act , and other USDA existing authorities. In terms of food distribution, CFAP will provide pre-approved boxes of food to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits serving Americans in need.

The program is available for any organization that falls under the qualifying categories, and Community Pathways took advantage of the opportunity to help those in Steele County.

From 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Community Pathways staff and volunteers will load the boxes directly off the two Channel One Food Bank trucks and put them directly into the trunks of those in need during an event they are calling “Truck to Trunk.” No registration or former participation through Community Pathways is necessary to receive a box.

“We anticipate going through all 450 of our boxes during our two-hour window,” said Nancy Ness, co-executive director of Community Pathways, which includes a food shelf known as The Marketplace. “We have the opportunity where we could potentially do it again.”

Ness said that each household will receive a 25-pound produce box, an 11-pound frozen meat box, and a dairy box consisting of two gallons of milk, yogurts, and cheeses totaling 10 to 15 pounds.

According to data provided by Second Harvest Heartland — a Twin Cities-based food bank — and consulting firm McKinsey & Co., food assistance needs are predicted to peak in September to 735,000 Minnesota residents who are “food poor.” The number reflects 13% of the state’s population and 130,000 more people than after the 2008 recession, the Star Tribune reported.

The data also shows that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 1 in 11 Minnesota residents struggled to afford food. It’s projected that 1 in 8 residents by August.

Community Pathways has felt the weight of the public health pandemic since March. At first, volunteers were limited to those who were not in the high-risk categories, leaving the staff short-handed for its curbside pickups. By April, no volunteers were allowed in the facility in order to limit exposure, and donations were no longer accepted due to a quarantine. By May, the nonprofit moved to only serving its monthly subscribers.

Other area food shelves have also suffered during the pandemic, with the Faribault Food Shelf located next to the Faribo West Mall posting this week that it is now closed permanently. Both St. Vincent de Paul in Faribault and the Northfield Community Action Center remain operational and serving Rice County.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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