In rural Minnesota, food banks face additional challenges amid COVID-19Jun 29, 2020 06:17AM ● By Editor
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By Emily Ness of WDIO-TV - June 28, 2020
Across the country, food banks have struggled to keep up with demand as fall outs from the COVID-19 pandemic force more and more families to seek help putting food on the table. In rural areas, food banks are facing the additional challenges of getting food to those who live in isolated places with fewer volunteers and donations.
Susan Estee, Executive Director of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank said that they, like many food banks, have had to change the way they operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead of people coming into a food shelf and picking out their food, everything needs to be packed for people so that we can maintain social distancing,” Estee said.
Packaging all of this food requires the help of volunteers, but as a result of COVID-19, the food bank said they not only need more volunteers, but also, new volunteers.
“We have always relied on a great army of volunteers who are primarily 65 and up and with the CDC guidelines, we have had to limit our volunteers to healthy people under the age of 65,” Estee said.
Fortunately, Estee said the Farmer’s to Families Program has helped fill a void amid a drop in donations.
“I think you can really see the need as people come to the distribution points of these Farmers and Families boxes. There are people coming who have never asked for help before,” Estee said.
But, Estee said getting the food to where it needs to go has been expensive for the food bank which serves the rural areas of International Falls, Cass Lake, Walker, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Milaca and Mora Minnesota.
"Providing food in rural areas has always been tough because people are so spread out and so isolated,” Estee said.
Funding from the state has helped the food bank so far this summer, but Estee said the food bank hopes additional funding will help them into the fall.
“We're really going to see the need increase this fall and we need to be ready for that,” Estee said.
As Second Harvest North Central Food Bank continues to feed Minnesota’s rural communities, Estee said they hope to see more volunteers and donations.
“People tell us often that without the food, they would not be able to pay for their rent or their medicine,” Estee said. “I think that people stay in their homes and they stay healthier because of the food that they've been able to get.”