BEMIDJI -- It's a time of change for the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, both in how it operates and where it operates from.
The nonprofit organization was recently awarded $9,000 in grants from the University of Minnesota Extension office to transform into a "SuperShelf." As part of the process, the BCFS will modernize its building with fresh paint, new furniture and small renovations, as well as change how food is distributed.
The changes coming at the end of the month coincide with a larger, more long-term project, though. In addition to becoming a SuperShelf, BCFS officials said a new roof will be required within the next year.
In the immediate future, though, the focus is on going “Super.” To do so, officials will change how food is offered to visitors.
"Everything's going to be reorganized," BCFS Director Mary Mitchell said. "We're going to have our foods in less groups, with each group offering more selection options for guests."
"It will reorganize what we have and expedite what we do," BCFS Board President Jim Fretheim said. "The SuperShelf program will provide better care to the clients and offer us a more efficient way to operate."
Mitchell said the food shelf initially applied for the program two years ago, but weren't selected. However, the program had funding available this year and were able to offer what Mitchell said was a "scaled down" version of the SuperShelf to organizations in Greater Minnesota such as Bemidji.
According to the SuperShelf program's website, the changes are to better promote healthier food as an option and expand the overall access to healthy food. To make the transition in Bemidji, the BCFS is also getting labor assistance from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.
Work on the transition will result in the food shelf's closure from Aug. 24-27, with a grand re-opening at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Despite the re-opening, though, the food shelf isn't changing its identity.
"The food shelf recently rebranded with a new logo and tagline, so the SuperShelf won't cause us to change our name or logo," Mitchell said. "The SuperShelf is more for re-organizing the shelf's operation to promote those healthy food options and make minor improvements. It's more of a feather in our cap."
Raise the roof
On top of the SuperShelf transition, Mitchell said the BCFS has a separate, larger project to work on. The project is replacing the building's aging roof, which has fallen into disrepair.
"The roof is completely shot, there are questions on whether it will make it through the winter," Mitchell said. "The plan is to replace the roof, and it will cost between $70,000 and $120,000. We're not able to use our funding from SuperShelf program, so we will be asking the community for help with that. We're hoping to get some grants to help us, too, because it will likely come from multiple sources."
The building, located at 1260 Exchange Ave SE, has been home to the food shelf for nearly 12 years. According to Fretheim, the building is one of the oldest in Bemidji's Industrial Park and was formerly a woodworking shop.
In addition to the building, the BCFS also has a farm on the compound, which has contributed more than 40,000 pounds of food since starting in 2014. Last year, the food shelf distributed more than 800,000 pounds of food and so far this year, it has distributed 546,170 pounds.
Serving Beltrami County and the Bemidji School District, the food shelf on average provides about 10 meals a month to 3,000 households.