MARSHALL - Their goal was fewer hungry people in southwest Minnesota. And supporters of the Kitchen Table Food Shelf in Marshall came one step closer to that goal on Tuesday.
"This is a dream, and it's going to come true starting today," said Angie Coudron, who has worked at the food shelf since 1999.
Area officials, volunteers and residents all gathered at the Western Community Action office in Marshall on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking for an expansion of the food shelf. The project will include construction of a receiving area for food contributions and a walk-in freezer and cooler. When the expansion is finished, Western Community Action Board Chairman John DeCramer said, it will allow staff and volunteers to unload pallets of food from a truck, "break it into smaller lots and have that food available for people in the region."
Photo by Deb Gau
A sizable group of people, including local officials, food shelf staff, volunteers, and area residents, picked up golden shovels to break ground for an expansion of the Kitchen Table Food Shelf in Marshall.
The expansion project comes at the same time Western Community Action has expanded its community garden program, which also provides area residents with fresh and nutritious foods.
"Much of what (the Kitchen Table) does is called food rescue," said Celeste Lasich, coordinator of Western Community Action's Circles of Support group. The food shelf takes in donations of food that is still good to eat, but couldn't be sold by local businesses or producers. The arrangement helps area residents and keeps food from being wasted in landfills. More than 35,000 pounds of food was rescued in June alone, food shelf staff members said.
However, the Kitchen Table currently doesn't have enough refrigerator or freezer space to accept all the food it's offered.
The expansion project received a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, and area businesses and individuals lent their support as well. About $150,000 is still needed for the expansion project, and Western Community Action is continuing to raise the remaining funds. Part of the festivities Tuesday included a silent auction, bake sale and Whopper feed to help raise money for the expansion.
The Kitchen Table Food Shelf has expanded a lot in the past 12 years, Coudron said. When she started working at the food shelf, Coudron said, "the main thing was clothing. We had about a 10-by-10 space and a vault where we kept food." The food shelf served about eight clients a day.
Now, she said, "I think we probably average about 50 clients a day."
"What we know is, the need continues to increase," Lasich said. Even people working full-time jobs are having to choose between putting food on the table or covering other expenses like rent or health care, she said.
Besides the groundbreaking ceremony, visitors could also take a tour of the food shelf. Many people don't know much about how the Kitchen Table works, Lasich said. Food choices have grown beyond canned goods and more processed foods to include items like dairy, meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are even good options for vegetarians, she said.
Another important goal for Kitchen Table staff and volunteers is that clients are treated with respect, Lasich said.
"There's no shame in using the food shelf," she said.
"It's not easy to ask for help," area resident Lisa Jones told the people gathered at the groundbreaking. But she said the help provided by the food shelf made a difference for her own family and other local families.
"Nobody should ever go hungry in this country," she said.