Taking on food  insecurity in the region

Community support has kept the Family Pathways Pine Community Food Shelf going through good times and bad. Back on  Dec. 22, 2015, Mrs. Allen’s and Ms. Stull’s classes walked all the food that the entire Pine City Elementary first grade collected during the month of December to the Pine Community Food Shelf – 57 bags filled with over 370 pounds of food for those in need.

Part 2 in a series

More than one out of 10 Pine County residents aren’t sure how they’re going to be able to feed themselves and their families this month, according to Family Pathways CEO Lisa Mears.

“Up here, in Pine County, the food insecurity rate is 11%,” Mears said. “In Chisago and Isanti county, in our service area, it’s 7% and 8%.”

Family Pathways runs food shelves in Pine City, Sandstone, Chisago City, Forest Lake, Saint Croix Falls, Cambridge, North Branch and Onamia.

Mears noted that the Family Pathways has been a longtime provider of those and other services in east central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and that serving the northern area offers challenges to the nonprofit.

“I can tell you that for us to purchase one week of food for an individual in the northern service area – say Onamia where we have a food shelf – it’s three times the cost for us to procure food than it is for us to procure food in the southern region because of our access to retail rescue and other donated food items,” Mears said. “There is a limited number of retailers, grocery retailers, in this region compared to the saturation down in the southern area.”

With that in mind, Mears said, Family Pathways is putting a new emphasis on food access and equity rather than simple hunger relief.

“We have some exciting things happening in the equity and access of food,” she said. “We are growing our mobile food program.”

Family Pathways currently brings food to over 20 sites. Mears said they want to add three to six sites each year. One of those sites is Pine Technical and Community College, where food insecurity for college students is at 25%.

“One of our targeted growth areas for 2020 [is] to impact the food insecurity rate at the college systems,” Mears said.

Mears said they plan to take a small bus, gut it out and fill it with shelves and refrigeration to bring food where it is needed.

“It will be a food shelf on wheels, prioritizing youth, aging adults and the student population,” she said. “We also are increasing the frequency by which we deliver to our existing sites for aging adults. Instead of coming one time a month, we are going to visit those sites an additional time a month to bring perishable food and really healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.”

Mears said they also plan to hire an organizer who will work with area communities and will partner with local public health departments, with food producers and growers and with health providers in the region.

For more information contact Family Pathways Food Shelf – Pine City at 320-629-0128 or by email at mail@familypathways.org. Family Pathways Food Shelf – Pine City is located at 220 7th St SW and is open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m - 5 p.m. on Wednesday and from 9 a.m - noon on Friday.

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