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Food distribution starts June 12

Two volunteers unpack breakfast items at the June 2016 surplus food distribution in Morris. The first distribution this summer is on Tuesday, June 12. File photo/Stevens County Times

Lynn Asmus and Jan Hagen wanted to make sure kids in Stevens County had access to good food in the summer when they started the Surplus Food Distribution program six years ago.

"It seems like yesterday, yet it seems like forever," Hagen said.

The two women were instrumental in starting the backpack program at Morris Area Schools. The program provides children with a backpack of food on Fridays during the school year that supplements the family's food. They soon learned that there was a need for food during the summer.

"We heard from teachers about kids who were asking if they could come back to school on Fridays during the summer to get their backpacks," Hagen said. "We thought 'there's got to be something we can do.'"

They began checking for programs and talked with West Central Minnesota Community Action and found a system that works, the women said.

"We are the fiscal host for this," said Amber Holmstrom of WCMCA. WCMCA handles the money but the fundraising and any grant applications are done by Morris volunteers.

"The community has been extremely good to us," Hagen said. People donate individually and businesses donate as well. A local trucking company donates a reefer trailer and another company donates a driver so the food can be brought from Crookston.

The first food distribution is on Tuesday, June 12, at the Morris Area Elementary School Cafeteria. Distribution starts at 5:30 p.m. and continues until the food is gone. Registration starts at 3 p.m. that day. The next distribution days are July 10 and August 14 at the same place and time.

 The food distribution provided food to an average of 600 people each month in 2017, Asmus said.

While donations fund the program, volunteers help unload and sort the food each month.

High school students including players on various athletic teams help on food distribution days.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without the high school kids," Asmus said.

Other volunteers are also needed to set up tables, carry food to vehicles and handle other duties that day.

Asmus said they know the program is critical to helping people with their food and budget needs during the summer.

Asmus recalled one woman who came to a distribution in August one year to thank the volunteers. After her husband had lost his job, she had received food in June and July but did not participate in August because he had gotten a job. The woman said she wasn't sure how she'd feed her family without the food distribution in June and July, Asmus said.

"We've also got a lot of elderly folks who get some relief (in their food bills)," Hagen said.

The food distribution is also an opportunity for WCMCA to reach people who may need other assistance such as help with heating bills and other needs, Hagen said.

Holmstrom, Asmus and Hagen said although the distribution continues until the food is gone, there is lots of food and volunteers make sure that all attendees receive food.

To volunteer, contact Holmstrom at WCMCA at 1-800-492-4805, ext. 7207. To donate, make checks payable to WCMCA Morris Food Distribution and drop them at Bremer Bank or mail them to WCMCA Morris Food Distribution, 411 Industrial Park Blvd. Elbow Lake MN 56531. Donors can give online at GiveMN.org and search for WCMCA.

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