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Celebrating 30 years of bank supplying food to the hungry

Shaye Moris leads a tour through the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank warehouse Feb. 6. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
Kathy Berg loads her van with supplies to take to the Carlton Youth Center. Ron Majchrzak takes a moment away from the tour group to help her load. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

For 30 years, Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank has been helping feed area residents in need. To celebrate, the public is invited to an open house and celebration from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday at their warehouse, 4503 Airpark Boulevard. The Budgeteer recently toured the facility to learn more about what they do and how the public can volunteer.

The food bank was started Feb. 13, 1984, by the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. According to Shaye Moris, the executive director and guide on Thursday’s tour, in the early 1980s, hundreds of miners on the Iron Range were without work. There were 14 Arrowhead food shelves at the time and a high need for food.

“They needed one organization that could coordinate donations arriving from all over the state of Minnesota to the area food shelves,” said Moris.

In 1986, the food bank aligned with Feeding America, which is formally known as Second Harvest. Feeding America is an association head of 200 food banks nationwide. But Moris is quick to add that, while aligned with Feeding America, this food bank is an independent nonprofit.

“I point that out because the money that we raise locally stays locally. We pay a membership fee to belong to Feeding America and in exchange we receive one to two million pounds of nationally donated food. We also have access to a variety of resources such as trucks, software, you name it,” she said.

So what’s the difference between a food bank and a food shelf?

“Our role as a food bank is to collect and gather food for nonprofit agencies,” said Moris.

Also food shelves mostly serve the community in which they are located, but the food bank serves eight counties including St. Louis, Carlton, Lake, Cook Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron.

One of the ways the food bank gathers food is by rescuing products that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Some of these are promotional products like holiday- themed cereals or other short-lived test products.

“For example, when the Vikings were in the playoffs in, I think, 1999, they made purple and gold tortilla chips. Once they were out of the playoffs, that product’s popularity went down,” said Moris which evoked laughter from most of the tour.

While the entire warehouse is not a food shelf, the warehouse clean room sometimes serves as one. In 2011, Second Harvest aligned with the Hermantown Area Food Shelf to provide a place to serve the food shelf’s clients. One of the volunteers for this food shelf, Ron Majchrzak, was on the tour and explained how the program works.

“People line up outside the door and come through with a cart and, depending on their family size, they get so many soups, so many cereals, so many vegetables and so on,” he said.

Majchrzak volunteered with the food shelf for the first time earlier in the week. He said he helped process about 60-65 people that Tuesday.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back,” he said.

During the tour, the warehouse continued to receive and send out food. While we passed near the garage doors Carlton Youth Shelter volunteer Kathy Berg was loading the van with supplies for the shelter.

Parked outside of the garage was one of the Second Harvest trucks, which play an important role in the food bank’s food rescue program.

“Before Second Harvest was here in Duluth if food donors had food to donate, they’d call three services. They might call Salvation Army, they might call CHUM, they might call Damiano and say ‘We have this food available, would you accept it?’ If they weren’t available or weren’t open or didn’t have volunteers to come pick it up, that food wouldn’t have a home,” said Moris.

In 2003 the food bank started the food rescue program in an effort to save locally prepared perishable food throughout the Twin Ports and Cloquet.

Every morning, Monday through Saturday, a ServSafe certified driver gets in his truck and goes to all the retail grocery stores in the Twin Ports area, hospitals and colleges and universities to gather perishable products created in the Northland. ServSafe is a program provides food safety training.

“Maybe the truck will go to St. Luke’s because maybe they figured they’d feed 200 people last night and there was only 150, so they have flash-frozen cans of lasagna. Maybe UMD planned for large number of students to eat their soups and guess what, there weren’t that many soups so we’ll get that product. Basically it all goes on the truck and then we turn around and give it to nonprofits to serve that day,” said Moris.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176