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Cash donations to CHUM Food Shelf in March will be matched by Minnesota FoodShare

Meg Kearns, food shelf director at CHUM

On a recent media tour, CHUM development director Mary Schmitz said she was surprised to find bare shelves in the back room -- something she says she's never seen before.

"I was really taken aback," said Schmitz, who has worked for the nonprofit for three years. "Every time I've been back there those shelves have been packed."

While CHUM accepts donations to fill those shelves any time of the year, people who make a donation this month will get a match for their cash.

Every year, CHUM participates in the Minnesota FoodShare's March Campaign, which matches the donations it receives.The campaign is sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches with donations from major Minnesota corporations including Target, the Timberwolves, WCCO-TV, the Medtronic Foundation and U.S. Bank.

Numerous local businesses and organizations are also stepping up. The deacons at Lakeside Presbyterian, a CHUM member church, are challenging the congregation to donate and will match money raised. Similarly, United Healthcare has issued a challenge to its staff, with employees divided into three teams who'll vie for a traveling trophy and bragging rights for the one that collects the most cash and food.

In 2010, the CHUM Food Shelf distributed groceries to nearly 2,000 households, providing 208,380 meals. The nonprofit cites as a troubling sign the increase in two-parent families and working poor who now need Food Shelf assistance to feed their families.

"Local families are struggling in this tough economy, and budget cuts proposed at the state capitol will cut their resources even further," Schmitz said.

While food donations are always welcome, CHUM officials say cash gifts are especially critical because the money can be used to buy perishable food items such as meat, cheese, bread and eggs locally. On average, the CHUM Food Shelf acquires food for 20 cents per pound, so monetary gifts can be stretched to provide more well-balanced meals for local families and households.

Money raised through the Minnesota FoodShare Campaign accounts for nearly 40 percent of the Food Shelf's annual operating income. Anyone wanting to help can mail or drop off their donations at either of CHUM's Duluth Emergency Food Shelf locations at 120 N. First Ave. W. or 4831 Grand Ave. Checks should be made out to "CHUM Foodshelf." Donations also may be given online at

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at