Plans to keep a food shelf in Somerset progress
Plans to keep a food shelf in Somerset after Grace Place relocates to New Richmond are well under way thanks to a focused group of community members, including representatives from local churches, members of the Somerset Community Foundation and concerned citizens.
The group has begun a series of meetings to address the needs associated with running a food shelf in the village.
A few key factors need to be decided to move the project along, including location (currently and in the future), funding, staffing, volunteer coordination and hours of operation.
At a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, to discuss these questions, Paul Wenzel, representing St. Anne Catholic Church, said Deacon Dick Peterson is open to keeping a food shelf at its current location.
“I think it’s safe to say Deacon Peterson is open to continued use of the chapel space in the old convent, at least until another space can be found,” Wenzel said.
Group members agreed to keep it at that location, for now, but want to find a new location that has more space and better accessibility for unloading trucks by the end of the year.
Lori Scheder, shelter manager at Grace Place, said once Grace Place vacates the convent, a couple of bedrooms could be used for food storage since the food shelf space is so small.
Duana Bremer, director of social services for the Salvation Army in the St. Croix Valley, said Grace Place and Salvation Army staff will assist the new food shelf group as it gets established.
“We do feel it’s important to keep Somerset’s food pantry in Somerset to serve the Somerset School District,” Bremer said. “We will help make the transition in any way we can.”
Bremer said the goal of moving Grace Place to New Richmond was May 1, but has now been pushed back to roughly Sept. 1.
The Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) has agreed to be a sort of “umbrella organization” over the food shelf efforts until it can establish itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
“Our plan is to reach out as a foundation to keep things active, carry it to the next level and facilitate conversation,” said Somerset School District administrator Randy Rosburg who also serves as SCF secretary.
The SCF wants the new food shelf to become its own entity, Rosburg said. After considering a few options concerning the shelter’s money management, including turning it over to the SCF or the St. Croix Valley Foundation, the group decided the Salvation Army will continue to manage funds for the food shelf until the end of 2014.
According to Scheder, the food shelf’s operating costs last year were $7,151.92, which is roughly $595 a month.
“I believe funds for you should be achievable,” Bremer said.
She listed many grants that are available to food shelves, including ones from the Andersen Foundation, St. Croix Electric and Walmart.
Much of the food is received from donations, Bremer said. They can usually expect about 1,000 pounds per year from the post office drive, 1,000 pounds per year from the schools and 500 pounds per year from area churches, to name a few.
The food shelf also receives food from the United Way Food Resource Center in Hudson (monthly), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP -- a federal program that provides commodities to food shelves) and Walmart in New Richmond (every two weeks).
Scheder said she sometimes orders food from Second Harvest in St. Paul, but tries to limit doing so because it can be expensive.
“I used to be able, if I was careful, to buy food for 97 cents a pound,” Scheder said. “The nice thing about them is they’ll deliver, but the heavier the food, the more it costs. So try to get your schools and churches to give you fruits, veggies, canned foods, anything heavy.”
Bremer said the food shelf in Osceola assigns churches different foods to be responsible for. For example, one church collects tuna or canned meats or another church collects macaroni.
Staffing and volunteers
The food shelf is currently open Tuesdays 9-11 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. and Thursdays 5-7 p.m. The staff tries to schedule “shopping” appointments every 15 minutes.
“Our goal has always been to not be judgemental and be as helpful as we can,” Bremer said. “We’re seeing more and more people coming that have never needed a food pantry before. When clients shop and make their own selections, it’s more dignified and less wasteful, because they’ll eat it if they pick it.”
Bremer and Scheder said most clients come once a month. They stressed that allowing self-shopping is less labor intensive than bagging and distributing food.
“Your biggest challenge will be picking up food at the distribution sites,” Scheder said.
Bremer suggested having volunteers trained by the Salvation Army while Grace Place is still in Somerset.
Another idea is to have churches, school and athletic groups rotate between staffing the pantry, picking up food and unloading and stocking deliveries.
The group would like to find volunteer coordinators to organize the volunteer shifts. Another goal is to find someone to take about eight hours a week to do the required paperwork for the food shelf.
For more information on becoming a volunteer or becoming a part of food shelf planning efforts, contact Rosburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-247-3313 Ext. 510.