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Bemidji Community Food shelf users will see change

The Bemidji Community Food Shelf is increasing the frequency of visits by food shelf users. Starting Monday, Beltrami County residents may come up to 12 times a year - but only once per month. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Food shelf users now will be able to frequent the Bemidji Community Food Shelf more times, but with the potential of less frequency.

To adhere to new guideless issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Bemidji food shelf has changed its policy.

Beltrami County residents before were welcome to use the food shelf up to five times a year after exhausting other methods of obtaining food.

Now, however, Beltrami County residents may come up to 12 times a year - but only once per month.

Randy McKain, the new executive director of the food shelf, noted that the change will result in the emergency food shelf moving a lot more food products throughout the year.

"We are an emergency food shelf," he said. "We need to give people food as they need it."

Food shelves have seen a drastic increase in use in recent years, he said.

Minneapolis researchers have found that food shelf visits have increased 62 percent statewide.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that the increase, statewide, for food shelves was due to more frequent visits from pervious clients.

In Bemidji, the food shelf has seen an increase of 1,500 families versus last year (that figure was updated at Thanksgiving).

"Yet, this does not take into account those who are eligible for food shelf services, but choose to not receive these services," McKain noted in a press release.

McKain said the food shelf is working to notify the public about the change through media and church bulletins. Also, as people come in to use the food shelf, they are being informed about the new policy.

He said he has not received feedback yet on how the change will be accepted by those on the receiving end of the food shelf.

The food shelf is preparing ways to handle what it expects to be an increase in use.

"One of concerns is that we're going to be moving a lot more food," McKain said.

The food shelf is asking the public to keep its mission in mind as the new year begins.

"As stated in our Mission Statement, 'we want to provide emergency food to families and individuals who have short-term emergency food needs," McKain said the in the press release. "It seems that the need is as strong as ever."

The new policy takes effect Monday, Jan. 3, when the food shelf opens for the new year. Hours at the food shelf are 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month.