Mobile food shelf becomes creative way to help those in need
How do you get food to people in need if they can’t get to a food shelf? Bring the food to them, which is an approach being used in St. Cloud.
As the number of people in need around St. Cloud grows, a mobile food shelf is getting them access to healthy food. That effort is expanding this year thanks to support from SHIP, which helps make the healthier choice the easy choice, especially for people who have barriers to access healthier foods.
"There are many individuals and families who need food," said Kathryn Stolpman, Manager of Emergency Services for Catholic Charities of the St. Cloud Diocese. "However, physical limitations, or transportation challenges prevent them from getting to a food shelf. Even if they live on a bus route, carrying a week's supply of food is more than a person can handle alone."
In 2014, Catholic Charities Emergency Services started the mobile food shelf. A mini-bus was purchased with a grant from Hunger-Free Minnesota. It was retrofitted; the seats were taken out and shelves added.
SHIP funding leads to expansion and more food accessibility
The bus started to make regular stops at five sites in St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. Now, due to the need and its success, it added four more stops with support and funding from SHIP.
Catholic Charities of the St. Cloud Diocese worked with Stearns County SHIP to identify a barrier for their clients - lack of appropriate transportation to the food shelf - and found a way to overcome that barrier. It is taking healthy foods out to the community and the people who would not be able to get it otherwise.
Rural hunger is sort of hidden. - Kathryn Stolpman, Manager of Emergency Services for Catholic Charities of the St. Cloud Diocese
"We saw the need for healthy food growing," said Stolpman. "At the same time, we started to notice that some people were having problems getting to the food shelf. So, we sort of flipped it over in our heads. We thought, why not get the food out to the people who can't come to get it."
Stolpman estimated that there are about 2,200 households in Stearns County using Catholic Charities food shelf each month. Of that number, about 100 to 125 households rely on the mobile unit.
Stolpman met with Allison Dudek, SHIP coordinator for Stearns County, to discuss expanding the mobile unit's service area. "Allison advised us on funding that is available and how we can use it," Stolpman said. As a result, four stops were added in the St. Cloud area.
SHIP is working with Stearns County and 22 other local public health agencies across Minnesota to make more fresh produce and healthier foods available in food shelves and throughout the emergency food system.
"Rural hunger is sort of hidden," Stolpman said. "The need to get food to our clients is there."