GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Steve Strickler welcomes donations to the Chatfield Community Food Shelf to help support the food shelf’s mission. The cart just inside the door at Chatfield United Methodist Church is available for collected items to be deposited there. 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Steve Strickler welcomes donations to the Chatfield Community Food Shelf to help support the food shelf’s mission. The cart just inside the door at Chatfield United Methodist Church is available for collected items to be deposited there. 
Play well with others – share your food if you have some.

“We gave out 26,134 pounds of food last year. That’s a lot of food,” said Chatfield Community Food Shelf coordinator Steve Strickler, summing up how much the people of Chatfield shared with their friends and neighbors through donations to the local food shelf.

He went on, “In 2016, we served an average of 40 households per month and averaged a little over 2,100 pounds of food – 2,178 pounds a month – and this January, we’ve served 35 families and given out 1,935 pounds of food, so there is need, if people are questioning if there is need for a food shelf here in Chatfield.”

Chatfield Community Food Shelf is affiliated with Hunger Solutions, Channel One Food Bank and Minnesota FoodShare and is participating in the annual Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. This means the food shelf will receive a part of the money raised through donations made to Minnesota FoodShare to be used to purchase more food for people who have food insecurity, or uncertainty where they will find the funds or food for their next meal.

Strickler’s other half, the Rev. Debra Collum, explained before last year’s March Campaign how the food shelf’s affiliation makes a difference for the local pantry.

“These affiliations provide us with a network of support for funding, grant writing and best practices,” she said. “The food shelf is also listed on the websites and search engines for those who are seeking a food shelf in the Chatfield area.”

The food shelf’s association with Minnesota FoodShare allows the organization to participate in the Pack the Pews event, outlined in the Minnesota FoodShare website as an effort to put one bag of food in every seat of a church’s pews. During the 2017 March Campaign, Minnesota FoodShare hosts a Pack the Pews weekend as an opportunity for congregations across Minnesota to “engage their members in supporting Minnesota food shelves by bringing non-perishable food items to worship services.”

This year, Chatfield United Methodist Church’s (CUMC) Pack the Pews event is slated for Sunday, March 19. Strickler, who attends CUMC to hear his wife’s sermons, related that as a food shelf volunteer, he’s hopeful the ecumenically-operated food shelf will benefit from donations from people of all denominations and walks of life. During March, the Chatfield Community Food Shelf – operated in the basement of the church for its handicapped accessibility and shared space with the Chatfield Backpack Food Program – is weighing all food donations and reporting them to Minnesota FoodShare.

Monetary donations directed to Minnesota FoodShare can be shared among the food shelves in March during the March campaign.

“On March 19, we’ll have a Pack the Pew Sunday,” Strickler said. “We’re asking people to bring food and fill up a pew, and I think our Sunday school kids are going to be weighing the food. The food shelf’s volunteers are hoping that other churches do it, too.”

The next Chatfield Community Food Shelf March Campaign event is the following day at the Chatfield Dairy Queen, Monday, March 20, as owners John and Holly Martinka host a “free cone day.”

Strickler elaborated, “On ‘free cone day’ at the DQ, Holly Martinka has the option of what charity she and her husband would like to raise money and food for, and they’re going to have a barrel at the Dairy Queen to get food donations for the Chatfield food shelf. And we have a $250 Thrivent matching grant, so if we raise $250, we get $250 from Thrivent. We figure we need both financial and food donations because there’s not enough food donations to maintain what we need for the food shelf…financial donations to help with the food we get from Channel One and grocery stores.”

Strickler cited there is a need for the generosity of those who do Pack the Pews and who stop in at the DQ to drop off their canned and boxed food items or donate food items throughout the rest of the year. The food shelf serves families, individuals, children and senior citizens. Most of the people who use the Chatfield Community Food Shelf are working at least one job, if not two, or they are retired and living on a fixed income, so they welcome the helping hand.

Non-perishable food item donations to the food shelf come from individuals, churches and local service clubs, as well as area farmers and produce gardeners who plan a bumper crop to aid friends they know or have yet to meet. Baskets and bins are placed at local churches, Sunshine Foods and sometimes at special community events.

Strickler highlighted, “One gentleman fills the cart in the church doorway here with family-size cans of Spaghetti-os and Dinty Moore beef stew and chicken and dumplings, and we had another large donation from a farmer who donated four pigs so that we could have lots of meat. We continue to get donations from Kwik Trip twice a week. We’re looking forward to produce because one gentleman who brought in produce was planting specifically for the food shelf. We go through a lot of canned soup and canned pasta, mac and cheese, canned vegetables and juice…juice is good. We ask that people check the expiration dates on the food they donate because we have a rule that it has to be within at least a year before it expires.”

The food shelf also accepts personal health items and household cleaners, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, body wash, deodorant and anything else that will help someone feel clean and ready to face the world, as well as dish soap or laundry soap.

A dentist in Rochester has typically supplied the Chatfield food shelf with toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss, but if one adheres to the rule about a new toothbrush every three months, those don’t last. The other item that has been in demand has been a supply of paper bags to round up all the food that goes home with food shelf clients.

“We could always use more paper bags,” Strickler suggested.

Over the past year, the Chatfield food shelf has benefited from applying for grants, so it was able to acquire a refrigerator and two freezers for cold and frozen foods.

“That was part of a grant from Hunger Solutions, so we don’t have to worry about getting things like meat. Our wish list is mainly food…but if people would like to donate to pay for the processing of meat, we could use it when we have another generous meat donation,” Strickler said. “We have a lot of people who bring food in on a regular basis, and we have a group of ten volunteers who work on Tuesdays and Fridays. We probably could use more people here to volunteer. You don’t have to work more than four days every two months, so if people are looking to volunteer, it would be good. There’s always turnover.”

Strickler feels that the Minnesota FoodShare Month campaign is a good reminder to the community that the food shelf’s need is year-round, not just during the March Campaign.

“The campaign goes through March 31, and I think it’s a good reminder that there still is food insecurity in Chatfield,” he said.

He and his fellow Chatfield Community Food Shelf volunteers extended their appreciation to the people who play well with others by sharing their food, acknowledging that without them, the food shelf could not have given away 26,134 pounds of food last year…and 1,935 a month and counting this year.

Contributions to the food shelf can be brought to the Chatfield Community Food Shelf, housed in CUMC’s lower level, at 124 Winona St. SE, anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Checks may be made out to “Chatfield Community Food Shelf” and mailed to the church or brought in on Tuesdays or Thursdays during food shelf shopping hours.

For more information on the Chatfield Community Food Shelf or the Chatfield Backpack Food Program, call 507-867-3529. For more information on the food shelf, log onto www.chatfieldfoodshelf.com.