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Bemidji Community Food Shelf to celebrate 40th anniversary with plant sale, open house

The Bemidji Community Food Shelf will welcome the community on Saturday, May 21, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary with a plant sale fundraiser and open house from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

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The Bemidji Community Food Shelf will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a plant sale fundraiser and open house from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 21.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — The Bemidji Community Food Shelf will welcome the community on Saturday, May 21, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary with a plant sale fundraiser and open house from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

After starting out in a small storefront in downtown Bemidji, the food shelf has grown to serve thousands of people in its 40-year history.

Executive Director Mike Olson is excited for Saturday’s events and encourages everyone to come. In addition to the plant sale, attendees can take a tour of the buildings and farm to see what’s new with the food shelf. Board members and staff will be on hand to show visitors around.

“(The food shelf) has been doing this for several years and it’s a lot of fun,” said Olson in reference to the plant sale. “We’ll have lots of plants and flowers and all the proceeds will go to the farm and the food shelf.”

According to Olson, BCFS is responding to a large increase in demand due to the loss of federal COVID aid this year. A recent survey of local food shelves reported that 70% are expecting to see an increase in visits this year. So far in 2022, the Bemidji Food Shelf has had a 42% increase in people seeking help.

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In 2020, the Bemidji Community Food Shelf had to change its distribution model and work with less volunteers. It overcame obstacles, though, to deliver hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to the community.

The food shelf served 6,200 families during 2021, which in turn received 550,000 pounds of food.

“We are finding that more and more people are coming to the food shelf,” Olson said. “That’s going to be our biggest challenge in the next few years.”

In order to meet the demand, the food shelf relies on more than 300 volunteers to keep the food shelf running.

“We have wonderful volunteers from area churches and the community that come in,” Olson said. “We encourage anyone that’s interested in volunteering to stop by and see what we’re doing.”

Olson stepped into the director role at the food shelf in October 2021, with a background in nonprofit leadership in past positions.

BSU graduate Michael Olson, with years of experience in nonprofit leadership, will become the new executive director of the Bemidji Community Food Shelf in October when Mary Mitchell retires from the role.

“It’s all so new, it really is just getting everything under my belt in a way,” said Olson. “People have been very appreciative of the support we give out and the community has been incredibly supportive. It’s a wonderful place.”

For those who wish to support the food shelf, cash donations are preferred as BCFS is able to purchase food in bulk, resulting in four meals for every dollar donated making each donation go even further.

The food shelf is located at 1260 Exchange Ave. SE in Bemidji. For more information or to donate, visit www.bcfsmn.org.

Related Topics: THINGS TO DO
Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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