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‘Make Change’: Help end hunger in the Upper Midwest

As more and more people, including children and senior citizens, experience hunger in our cities and towns, Second Harvest Heartland has seen an uptick in food-shelf usage: It went up 21 percent in just the second half of 2007.

Signs point to an increase in those numbers as citizens are faced with rising food costs, soaring gas prices and fallout from the housing foreclosure epidemic.

In the month of June, Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Foundation are teaming with America’s Second Harvest Heartland Food Banks in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota to raise money to end hunger. For the third consecutive year, Bremer is hosting its “Make Change” hunger-awareness campaign. Clients, employees and the general public are asked to make donations during June at Bremer Bank locations or online. The Otto Bremer Foundation has donated $75,000 to the campaign and challenges members of the community to match or exceed this amount.

“Hunger is a widespread issue in our country and right here at home in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities,” said Rob Zeaske, executive director of Second Harvest Heartland. “We are committed to ending hunger by supplying food to our local food shelves, providing much-needed support to families who are hungry.”

Cook-off will launch campaign

To kick off the campaign, Bremer will host the Bremer Community Cook-Off on Thursday, June 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in downtown St. Paul. The free event will feature four of the top chefs in the Twin Cities putting their skills on display to create a meal consisting of products typically found at food shelves. Sous chefs from local Twin Cities TV stations will support the chefs, along with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and a host of mascots, and the meals will be judged by a panel of food reporters. It is our hope that Minnesotans will attend the cook-off over the lunch hour and make a donation to Second Harvest Heartland.

Some of the food shelf-provided ingredients used by the chefs will include canned vegetables, beans and pre-prepared cooking sauces; and fresh meats, such as chicken and beef.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are often not available at food shelves. However, local farmers markets so provide low-cost options during the summer months. Some local farmers markets accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks distributed through WIC (Women, Infants and Children program) and NAPS (Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors). The FMNP was established by Congress in 1992 to provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC recipients.

Fresh produce accepted at food shelves

Prospective donors may not realize that food shelves will also accept donations of produce. “We encourage people to donate fresh fruits and vegetables from their personal or family gardens,” said Barb Downs, food agency director at Second Harvest Heartland.

“Area food shelves are always in need of fresh fruit and vegetable options. Be sure to call your local food shelf ahead of time, though, to determine what products will work best.”

The “Make Change” campaign will run throughout the month of June. Donations can be made at any Bremer Bank location in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Funds will go directly to the donor’s local food shelf or to America’s Second Harvest Heartland Food Banks. Donations can also be made online.

Second Harvest Heartland is able to purchase $9 worth of groceries and food products for every $1 donated. It is the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization, serving 59 counties in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. Overall, the organization serves 1,020 member agencies and programs. In 2007, Second Harvest distributed 34.5 million pounds of food, a 15.5 percent increase over 2006.

Stan Dardis is the chief executive officer of Bremer Financial Corp. 


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