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Annual Stuff-a-Truck campaign begins today

Northern Elementary School staff member Deanna Nyegaard, center, lent a third hand to help fourth-graders Austin Weeks and Lacey Thompson carry out food items for Stuff-a-Truck Thursday afternoon. The public can donate to Stuff-a-Truck today and Saturday at Marketplace Food & Drug. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper1 / 2
Student council members at the Bemidji Middle School got to load all the donated food items for Stuff-a-Truck Thursday morning. Shown above are Rocky Sopiskey and Madelyn Tews, who are handing boxes to Marketplace volunteer Bruce Wold. The Middle School had a banner year for donations. The public can donate food items today and Saturday in front of Marketplace Foods & Drug. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper2 / 2

The 19th annual Stuff-a-Truck campaign kicks off Friday.

Stuff-a-Truck is a community food drive that benefits the Bemidji Community Food Shelf by, literally, stuffing a semitrailer full of food donations for the food shelf.

The drive will be Friday and Saturday outside of Marketplace Food & Drug at the Westridge Center, 2000 Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest.

Those interested in participating may buy pre-filled bags at Marketplace for $5 or $10 each or make their own donations. Cash donations also are accepted.

Carolyn Hegland, the director of the food shelf, said more families use the food shelf during the winter months. And, the Stuff-a-Truck campaign helps provide food for the holidays.

"This time of the year, things start to get a little low," she said. "It comes at a good time."

Hegland noted that the food shelf has 1,500 more clients this year from this time last year. On one specific day this week, the food shelf served 54 families.

Last year's donations of 16,560 pounds of food set a record, exceeding 2008 donations by 1,200 pounds. The community cash donations came to $2,851, which was more than doubled by a $2,114 donation from Enbridge Energy and $5,000 from U.S. Pipeline.

She estimated that 20,000 pounds of food will serve 500 families (based on the average of four people per family).

Hegland said Stuff-a-Truck has to help carry the food shelf through until the March Food Share campaign.

The food shelf is specifically in need of cereals (hot or cold); classical essentials such as canned fruits, vegetables and soups; and personal hygiene products such as shampoo, soap, toilet paper and toothpaste.