In era of cutbacks, food bank finds way to expandA fundraiser netted just half the cost of expansion, so the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank tapped its reserve.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Despite meeting only part of its fundraising goal, Duluth’s Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank completed an extensive warehouse expansion this summer.
The food bank raised half of the $1.6 million it needed, and then dipped into reserve funds and took out a new mortgage for the rest.
“We knew it was something we had to do,” said Shaye Moris, executive director of the food bank, which rescues nationally and regionally donated food for nonprofit programs in the area. “Without us, they’d miss a whole lot of food.”
The food bank so far has rescued 15 percent more food this year than last because of its increased space, clocking in at about 1.7 million meals for people since January. But there’s been a 28 percent increase in demand at food shelves in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.
“Last month alone we saw
127 people we had never seen before in that category of ‘people laid off,’ ” said Nancy Massich, social services director of the Hibbing Salvation Army. “Some miners, some from other businesses. It kind of dominoed. When the mines went down, it affected a lot of other businesses.”
The Hibbing and Duluth Salvation Army chapters each have clients who used to be donors. For some it’s one-time only, Massich said, but “some have totally lost their jobs, and those are the people who are going to become clients on a regular basis.”
The food bank’s fundraising campaign began around the start of the economic crisis, and two foundations it was slated to receive money from were either unable to give or unable to give as much as promised, Moris said. The food bank took $240,000 from its reserve fund, leaving enough to operate for four months if need be, and rolled an existing mortgage into a new one to total $835,000 in debt. It also redirected money meant for leased space it no longer needs. Moris said Second Harvest isn’t assuming any more of a burden than it was before the expansion.
“Honestly, we’re happy we raised 50 percent,” Moris said. Despite the market’s decline, “people were still giving fanatically to this campaign.”
Food donations from national companies are still strong, Moris said, citing General Mills as one that has not cut back on charitable giving to the food bank. Donated federal commodities have increased this year by 175 percent, to total 479,872 pounds.
The expansion includes 9,000 new square feet, a new $100,000 freezer, a cooler, repackaging room and a demonstration kitchen. Much of what already existed of the now 23,500 square foot building was reconfigured.
The food shelves are happy about the expansion because it means more food to give, said Carol Perkins, food service supervisor for the Duluth Salvation Army. The need has been growing with every bit of bad business news.
“Every time something closes we see it come in here,” she said.