The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 2, 2011

Changes at St. Peter Food Shelf satisfy

ST PETER — The food shelf in St. Peter has moved from its church house site and into a new, more visible location on the city’s Broadway Street.

And it’s not only the location that’s changing; they’re also changing the way clients use the food shelf, moving from a pre-packaged system based on client needs to a a system where clients choose their own foods and personal care items.

The move became finalized in early September, and already shelf volunteers say the new location is a hit with both volunteers and clients.

“We really like this,” volunteer Nancy Helgeson said, “and the clients like it, too.”

Helgeson said clients like being able to choose their own food. Making that change, she said, has resulted in people taking less food. Before, when someone else was preparing a sack of canned goods and other non-perishables, the collection inevitably included items the client didn’t want.

Now, with clients doing the choosing, those unwanted items never come off the shelf.

The new distribution method also cuts down on the amount of unnecessary work that came a couple of times each week when a client would book an appointment and not show up to pick up the food. So in addition to volunteer time spent packing an order called in for a specific family, a volunteer would then have to unpack the order and return the canned goods to their proper shelves.

One of the biggest changes, Helgeson said, is the fact that the new location doesn’t have a basement. This means food isn’t stored down a flight of stairs, which means the volunteers — many of whom are elderly — don’t have to haul food up a flight of stairs.

The move to a new location came at an opportune time. A representative from Nicollet County Social Services met with Helgeson to break the news that the county, in an attempt to cut costs, was planning to discontinue its practice of booking appointments for the food shelf.

But before the social worker could tell Helgeson that, Helgeson wanted to break her own bit of news: that the move to a new location would coincide with the shelf’s discontinued reliance on the county’s scheduling services.

So now all clients (which the St. Peter Food Shelf would like to start calling “consumers,”) simply come in when the shelf is open. Once there they register on site and select their food given the shelf’s predetermined set of parameters for individual and family food allowances.

The St. Peter Food Shelf covers all of St. Peter and anyone else in Nicollet County or within the St. Peter school district that isn’t already covered by another food shelf. (North Mankato residents, for instance, are covered by the ECHO Food Shelf.)

The number of people using the shelf, they say, is up. A year or so ago, a busy day at the shelf meant serving eight households. Now a busy day means up to 16 households.

A bit of luck came along with their move. As it happened, another organization in town had some shelving it wanted to get rid of: The St. Peter Food Co-op.

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