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Food shelf to test out new, expanded hours

The Perham Food Shelf will be testing out some later hours on Tuesdays to meet the needs of working clients.

In order to meet increasing need and better accommodate working clients, the Perham Community Food Shelf will be trying out a ‘second shift’ of later hours on Tuesdays.

The food shelf will continue to be open for clients and donations from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. Beginning June 11, it will also be open from 3-6 p.m. on Tuesdays.

These new, expanded hours will be tested out on a trial basis for three months. During the third month, the new hours will be assessed to see if they are warranted, according to John Leikness, the food shelf’s director.

“If we are reaching new clients then we will continue the new hours,” he said in an email to the Focus. “If we find that we are serving the same clients that visit us today, then we did not accomplish what we intended.”

Leikness said there have been several times in the recent past when clients have been unable to make it to the food shelf due to their daytime work schedules.

“What we are hoping to do is remove any obstacle that prevents people from getting that occasional helping hand for food,” he said. “We want to conduct a trial first to see what the best permanent solution might be for clients.”

The food shelf continues to see increased usage, with 8.4 percent more households using the food shelf last year than the year before. A total of 310 families visited the food shelf in 2012, and while numbers for the first quarter of 2013 are slightly down from where they were a year ago, Leikness said he suspects there are more people in the community who could use the food shelf if they either knew more about it or were able to get there during open hours.

At a meeting of city leaders in April, Leikness said the food shelf serves an average of 26 people per week – as few as 10 and as many as 52 in a single day.

Food shelf usage is expected to rise by another 5-10 percent over the next five years, he said. The expanded hours are one step in addressing this increase.

By 2015, the food shelf may add an extra open day for clients. Space at the current facility is likely to become an issue by that same year, Leikness said.

Fortunately, one thing the food shelf doesn’t have to worry about is the availability of willing volunteers, which Leikness said are in abundance in Perham.

Donations have also been coming in strong, ensuring that the food shelf never runs out of food.

The March Food Share Campaign, which ran from March 1 through April 7, produced more than 35,000 combines dollars and pounds of food, exceeding the food shelf’s internal goal of 30,000.

Leikness said it was “the best March campaign ever.”

“I want to express our sincere thanks to the community for the incredible support we received during our March Food Share Campaign,” Leikness stated in his email.

The donations have allowed the food shelf to increase the pounds of food it distributes to families each week, and have also helped to support the expanded hours.

All donations made during the campaign are partially matched by the state organization. 

The Perham Community Food Shelf is located at 501 4th Ave. N.W. and may be reached by phone at 346-6181.

Donations can be delivered during open hours on Tuesdays or mailed to: Box 7, Perham, MN 56573.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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