The needs tend to spike over the holidays, McQuillan said. In preparation for that, a number of local food shelves are putting together holiday meals.
For example, Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA), a food shelf in Columbia Heights, is asking people to donate groceries at the Cub Foods stores in Fridley and St. Anthony on Saturday, Dec. 7.
People can spend as much or as little as they want, said SACA manager Dave Rudolph. SACA representatives will be on hand at the stores from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., though the drive will run all day, he said.
Later on, volunteers at SACA will sort everything from Cub for the food shelf’s Christmas dinner and toy distribution in December.
This year the food shelf can only provide Christmas meals to 450 families compared with the normal 800, Rudolph said.
At the same time, the food shelf is seeing as many as 75 new faces each month, including more groups of adults who are pooling their resources.
“The need is still there. That’s the big thing. It doesn’t matter what community you’re in,” Rudolph said.
Holidays a stressful time
Tiffany Nguyen, the business manager at Community Emergency Assistance Programs (CEAP), which has offices in Brooklyn Center and Blaine, underscored the idea that holidays are “incredibly stressful for families with little discretionary income.”
Many people who arrive at CEAP are “struggling to meet their basic needs, deciding whether to pay the heating bill or put food on the table, let alone buy presents and holiday food,” she said.
Incomes aren’t stretching as much as they used to, while many of the increasing numbers of people turning to CEAP are working families. They’re dealing with an emergency situation, like a car breaking down or a family member in the hospital, Nguyen said.
She’s expecting cutbacks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously referred to as food stamps, to make matters worse.
“A family of four will have their benefits reduced by $36 every month” from what had been an average SNAP benefit of $410 a month per family. That’s $425 a year.
“That may not seem like a lot, but to someone who’s struggling it means the world,” she said, adding, “More cuts could be ahead.”
Hygiene items also needed
Shana Schmitz, the outreach director at the North Anoka County Emergency Food Shelf (NACE) in East Bethel, said she’s already starting to see the effects of SNAP cuts.
A local church is trying to help by collecting hygiene items, since SNAP dollars can’t be used for things like toothpaste and shampoo, she said.