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As food stamps decrease, food shelf asks for support

Jack Judkins

BEMIDJI — Stuff-a-Truck couldn’t come at a better time.

The largest annual food drive in this area, Stuff-a-Truck encourages donations and funds for the Bemidji Community Food Shelf.

But this year the need is even greater than usual, said Jack Judkins, food shelf coordinator.

Not only are more people visiting the food shelf more often, today the benefits for 47 million Americans on food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — will decrease as an increased from the 2009 stimulus bill expires.

A family of four that qualifies for the maximum monthly benefit will lose $36 a month, a 5 percent reduction.

"The timing of this (SNAP cut) couldn’t be worse for people, at this time of the year, with the holidays and winter approaching," Judkins said.

The food shelf served nearly 1,000 people in October and is on pace to eclipse more than 10,000 individuals and families served this year, providing about 700,000 pounds of food.

"A significant number (of food shelf clients) already get food stamps," he said. "They have been coming here even though (benefits) have been at higher levels."

Staff expects the decrease in food stamp benefits to impact its client base, Judkins said. They just don’t yet know how much the impact will be.

Stuff-a-Truck a ‘necessity’

Stuff-A-Truck, a drive planned in partnership with area schools and businesses, comes at an apt time.

It long has been scheduled for November to stock the food shelf for winter, tough months for many low-income individuals and families.

"Winter is hard on people," Judkins said, "That’s why Stuff-a-Truck was planning for this time of year. It’s a necessity."

This year, the goal — long flat at 15,000 pounds — has been raised to signify the increasing needs of the community.

This year the food shelf is asking for community support in raising 20,000 pounds of food and $7,500 in cash donations. Judkins said.

The drive technically begins Monday as area K-12 schools are equipped with boxes for collections, but other actions already are underway.

The Junior ROTC program at Bemidji High School is teaming up with the National Honor Society to donate a portion of the Halloween Dance portions to buy turkey vouchers, and dance-goers were asked to bring in nonperishable good to save $1 on admission charges.

Further, Northwest Technical College and Bemidji State University each have students organizing their own food drives on their campuses, Judkins said.

"It is truly a community-wide effort that everyone can contribute to," Judkins said.

More than 1,500 businesses will be receiving postcards, if they haven’t already, inviting them to participate in the 22-year-old food drive.

"I think there’s going to be a lot more happening, which is good because we desperately need to see more (donations) come in this year," Judkins said.