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Stuff A Truck Campaign: Food drive brings in record

From left, Bemidji Community Food Shelf volunteer June Roxstrom gets a helping hand from Mandy Stough and Food Shelf volunteer CJ Fisher to sort through the 16,560 pounds of food items donated to Stuff A Truck at the Bemidji Armory Tuesday morning. Pioneer Photo/ Monte Draper

Donations of both food and cash for the Bemidji Community Food Shelf during the Stuff A Truck campaign reached record amounts this year.

Rachel Willard of MarketPlace Foods, who is the Stuff A Truck coordinator, said the donations of 16,560 pounds of food exceeded the 2008 donations by 1,200 pounds. The community cash donations came to $2,851. This amount was more than doubled by a $2,114 donation from Enbridge Energy and $5,000 from U.S. Pipeline.

"This is amazing," said Carolyn Hegland, Food Shelf director. "We're so thrilled with all the food. Bemidji just went above and beyond."

She said the donations will stock the Food Shelf through the winter until the March Food Share campaign.

In addition to the Stuff A Truck donations, she said hunters have donated 27 deer so the Food Shelf can distribute venison. And the Food Shelf garden at the farm of Gary Vanyo was also a success, she said.

"We had over a ton of potatoes, as well as onions, rhubarb, carrots and tomatoes," Hegland said.

She said home gardeners also generously donated produce. Seed potato donations by home gardeners, Ter-Lee Gardens of Bagley and Albrecht's of Northome last spring also was a savings, she said. Ter-Lee and Albrecht's also donate potatoes for food."The clients were so happy to have fresh food," she said.

Bill Beyer, Food Shelf president, said the garden has extended into a composting project. Anything from the gleanings - leftover produce from grocery stores - that is no longer edible goes to Vanyo's compost pile to enrich the soil.

Willard said people were generous in spite of the economic recession.

"It was a great year," she said. "I was surprised with the pounds. I was pleased with the community coming out and the schools."

She said MarketPlace sold 440 prepackaged bags of food at $5 a bag, but containing about $9 worth of groceries. That was up from 377 bags last year. In addition, Bemidji area schools collected 553 boxes of nonperishable food.

Hegland said the Food Shelf building at 310 Fourth St. N.W., is too small to store all the donated food. Much of it will be stored at the National Guard Armory, she said. Meanwhile, she said the Food Shelf board members are looking for a bigger facility.