Church dinners may continue under new law
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota churches and other civic organizations have Goodhue County churches to thank for being able to continue their fundraising meals.
Cathy Thiel and Pat Irruthum of Wanamingo jumped into action more than a year ago when a state Health Department inspector told St. Paul's Catholic Church in Zumbrota it no longer could hold the traditional church meals offered to the public.
"I felt strongly that church dinners should continue," Thiel said Monday after Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a provision allowing church, sportsmen, fraternal and patriotic organizations to continue their fundraising food sales.
Dayton signed the bill as Thiel, Irruthum and others from southeast Minnesota's Goodhue County looked on.
"The system really works," Thiel said.
Wanamingo Mayor Ron Berg, also watching the bill signing, said a church fund-raiser may pay heating bills for a winter.
Organizations such as the Lions Club also will benefit from the new law, the mayor said.
Twenty to 25 such groups use the Wanamingo community room each year for food-related fundraisers, City Administrator Michael Boulton said.
The dust-up over food came about after Goodhue County dropped its enforcement of state health laws and a state inspector decided to get tough on church dinners, Boulton said. That spurred the church women into action, getting more than 400 signatures seeking a change.
The Goodhue County women went to Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, for help. Their bill passed in the legislative session that ended two weeks ago.
The law requires a representative of any organization that sells food to be trained in food safety. That is fine with Thiel because it allows St. Paul's and other groups to continue to make money.
"Church dinners have been a part of our lives for generations," Thiel said. "Church dinners will be as safe as they ever were."
Don Davis writes for Forum Communications, which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.