by Sue Austreng
Every night, thousands go to bed hungry in Anoka County.
Determined to help quiet growling stomachs, the Salvation Army Harvest Corps is partnering with Loaves and Fishes to provide free meals to residents on a frequent, ongoing basis.
Those meals would be provided free of charge, no questions asked.
“We ask no questions of our guests. There are no entry requirements other than showing respectful behavior for everyone,” Loaves and Fishes states on its website.
The need for free, hot evening meals is real. According to the Wilder Research Center, 7.8 percent of Coon Rapids residents and 11.6 percent of the city’s children fell below the poverty line in 2009.
In fact, the research center reports the number of Anoka County’s public assistance cases has increased by 28 percent in the past two years.
Loaves and Fishes and the Harvest Corps hope to provide free, hot nutritious meals each Monday and Wednesday evening at the Harvest Corps location in Coon Rapids (10347 Ibis St. NW).
And they’d like to begin doing that in March.
But hot meals won’t get on the table without money and volunteer help from the community.
Loaves and Fishes program manager Andrea Kish-Bailey said there are some obstacles to overcome before the free meal program can begin.
“The two biggest factors for us in opening this (Coon Rapids) site are having the financial resources to cover the costs of operating the site, staff to oversee the site, supplies and equipment maintenance,” she said.
“This cost is roughly $15,000 for one year. The other factor is having enough volunteer teams to fund, prepare, serve and clean up the meals.”
And so, the Salvation Army Harvest Corps staff and Loaves and Fishes representatives have put the word out, asking for dollars and looking for volunteers.
Individuals or members of faith-based, business, corporate or civic groups who can offer financial support or help to create a volunteer team should contact the Salvation Army Harvest Corps (763-755-6873 or [email protected]) or Kish-Bailey at Loaves and Fishes (612-377-9810 or [email protected]).
Loaves and Fishes is a non-profit, volunteer-driven agency. Its records show that volunteers working in 300 serving teams currently provide food, cook dinner and help with cleanup at nine Loaves and Fishes sites in the metropolitan area.
In 2010, more than 338,000 meals were served at those sites.
To learn more about Loaves and Fishes, visit www.loavesandfishesmn.org.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]