The Fergus Falls Community Food Shelf, which the city has been running since late March with help from local organizations like Federated Church and Sunrise Rotary, will be scaling back its hours of operation from three days a week to two and from three hours to two starting on July 29. The food shelf will be open Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. “The plan is to match operation days to when we’re seeing the largest numbers of clients,” says Klara Beck, Community Development manager for the city of Fergus Falls.
At the beginning of the pandemic and shutdown, the Fergus Falls Community Food Shelf Board of Directors were unable to devise a plan to continue hosting volunteers and serving clients safely, leading to a closure of the food shelf. The city saw the food shelf as an invaluable resource for the community, especially during the pandemic, and stepped in to continue serving with as little break in normal operations as possible. “Right off the bat, I think city staff and volunteers assumed there would be a huge rush for food shelf services during the shutdown and beyond. Interestingly, that has not been the case,” Beck said. “The need is clearly still there, but the demand for services is not as high as we worried it could be. That’s a good thing! But, to make it easier for volunteers to commit their time and to hopefully make it easier for the food shelf board to come back in and take back over the organization that they all really miss, we’re going to reduce operations to two days a week.”
There are currently no plans in place to hand the food shelf back over to the board, though there will be a meeting in August to discuss it. “The food shelf board is primarily made up of people with time to devote to volunteering. In today’s world, people with that kind of time tend to be retired, putting them in an age group that the CDC warns is vulnerable to COVID-19. Until the board sees a way forward, the city and our partners at Sunrise Rotary and Federated Church will continue to help how we can,” Beck said.
Following interrupted schedules from the shutdown and a fundraising campaign launched through Federated Church, there was a surge of volunteers, especially young volunteers, in March. Now that people are returning to work, there has been a drop-off in volunteers. “We’re just hoping to get a few more people who might have that time during the day when they can come and do some volunteering,” Beck says. Scaling back the days and hours of operation are a way to hopefully make volunteering easier for people.
The food shelf is open for anybody who needs it, with no restrictions. It continues to be pick-up only, allowing for the safety of volunteers and patrons, with shares prepared by volunteers. Beck says, “It contains breakfast items like pancake mix and cereal, it comes with milk that we get from Service Food, it comes with some meat items and canned fruits and vegetables, just kind of basics to round out what people would normally be hopefully buying at the grocery store to keep themselves fed throughout the month.”
The food shelf serves about 25-30 families a day. People interested in volunteering for the food shelf can sign up at https://bit.ly/FergusFallsCommunityFoodShelf.