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Whole Foods Co-op employee Mayson Longley hands change to Wendy Olson of Duluth after her purchase Monday afternoon. Olson participated in Minnesota Food Share’s “Round Up at the Registers” program by rounding up her purchase to the next dollar. The extra change is donated to the CHUM food shelf. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

CHUM’s food drive gets a little help from its friends

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The annual March food drive at CHUM is humming along, and workers there on Monday wanted to boost awareness to the public about donations and thank three businesses for their work so far.

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In March, businesses, churches, school groups and the community come together to collect money and food because of matching money from the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches’ Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign.

CHUM said three local businesses have put forth extra efforts to donate food and money. So far, CHUM has collected $41,000 in donations, CHUM director Lee Stuart said. CHUM officials publically thanked the companies Monday at the Minnesota Power building in Duluth.

The Minnesota Power Foundation made a financial contribution to CHUM, and Minnesota Power employees held a food drive competition that brought in more than 3,000 pounds of food. Super One Foods implemented a “give at the register” program which collects money to be turned into filling the food shelves. Whole Foods Co-op is asking customers to “round up” the purchase price to the nearest dollar at its cash registers, and it hosted a food drive by asking customers entering the store to take a list of items needed at the shelf.

Shannon Szmkowiak, promotions and education manager at Whole Foods, said the food drive was impressive. In two days, 465 items of need were gathered.

While Whole Foods has partnered with CHUM in the past with events such as the Rhubarb Festival, it only has hosted specific food drives in the past two years. In 2013, Whole Foods cashiers asked customers to round up for a week. This year, it’s going on all month.

The store also sold gift baskets for the Jewish holiday of Purim, with $5 of the cost going to the food bank. Whole Foods matched the money raised through the sales.

“We’re anxious and excited to see the totals,” Szmkowiak said of all the store’s efforts. She said CHUM’s acknowledgement of the store’s efforts on Monday was “really nice.”

CHUM runs one of 300 food shelves in Minnesota. During 2013, CHUM distributed 10 tons of food every month. On average, a household visits the food shelf only three times annually. The 6,073 different individuals, 36 percent of them children, did not use the shelf as a grocery store but as a resource to tap during a real emergency.

Cash is the best way to donate, Stuart said. The food shelf not only knows exactly what it needs, it can get items at wholesale or in bulk to stretch those donations.

Because it can use special discounts from food banks and other programs, the food shelf can get food for an average of 28 cents per pound. It also gets deals on surplus perishable food, such as meat and produce.

Those who wish to donate food or start a drive should call CHUM before they come in to get a sense of what the food shelf needs.

At the end of the month, on March 31 at Teatro Zuccone, CHUM will host a showing of “A Place at the Table,” a film about hunger and financial disparity in America. The event, part of Teatro Zuccone’s themed nights on the topic of social justice, is co-sponsored by Community Action Duluth and the North East Area Labor Council. The event is free, but donations will be accepted.

It will end a big month for the food shelf, and Stuart wants to see a surge.

“We want people to do more,” she said.

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