DULUTH - The Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) food shelf here now offers delivery to homebound users and others without transportation.

CHUM is a nonprofit that serves more than 8,000 low-income and homeless area residents with emergency shelter, food and school supplies, housing, advocacy and other services.

When the pandemic began, a large chunk of the population served by CHUM was unable to access its food shelves, said Scott Van Daele, CHUM's distributive services director. Calls from users who couldn't get to a food shelf increased from a dozen per month to about a dozen per day, he said.

"They were highly vulnerable, or lived with someone who was and couldn't risk standing in line," Van Daele said, and CHUM didn't want to endanger the health of its volunteers.

Now, with most of them vaccinated, volunteers for the "CHUM2go" service can safely deliver food boxes to 120 Duluth households that haven't been able to use the food shelf regularly for the past year.

"This will really be the breakthrough to get a 60-pound box of fresh eggs, butter, milk, meat and canned goods without cost or troubles on their end," Van Daele said.

In 2020, CHUM distributed food to 2,046 households, or 6.7% of the city's population. Since the start of the pandemic, households have been able to visit the food shelf as often as necessary because of increased donations and food provided by the federal government. Previously they were limited to once a month. That translated to a nearly 50% increase in households visiting multiple times.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450