Study finds 40 percent of food shelf visitors are children
Written by Jeffrey DeMars, Divisional Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
Angie Johnson grew up right down the road from The Salvation Army in Duluth, Minn. At an early age she became aware of the programs and services we offered. At times, her family turned to The Salvation Army for a free hot meal or extra food.
“We just always knew it (The Salvation Army) was there if we needed it,” Johnson explained.
Johnson fondly remembers coming with her family for the occasional hot meal or bag of groceries. Now that she is a mother to six children under the age of 13, when times get tough, an occasional trip to The Salvation Army’s food shelf provides security for her children.
“Toward the end of the month, sometimes we lack in meats and protein,” said Johnson. “It kind of takes the weight off my chest a little bit knowing that their services are there and my children are not going to starve.”
‘The Hungry’ are Our Children
According to a 2016 study*, 40 percent of the people served by The Salvation Army’s food shelves were children. Though the study was spearheaded in the Twin Cities metro, it unearthed a trend we see at our food shelves throughout the state of Minnesota. Nearly half of those benefiting from our food services are unable to work and fend for themselves.
In addition to the obvious benefits of having access to enough food, studies show that children who are well nourished sleep better, typically fair better in school, and are at a greater advantage to succeed than those who are underfed.
“When I go to the food shelf they (my children) all get excited and they look in the bags because they have treats and stuff too,” Johnson smiled. “You know, we don’t always have treats like other people do. They understand that we’re poor and sometimes we need help to have enough food.”
Stockpiling for Days Ahead
Many of our locations with food shelves struggle this time of year to stay stocked with nutritious options to feed families like the Johnsons, due to a decrease in donations.
“In the first two months of this year alone, we’ve already given out nearly 100,000 pounds of food,” said Nancy Massich, caseworker at The Salvation Army in Hibbing, Minn.
That’s a hefty pace to maintain especially when you consider as of the middle of March, only 2,354 pounds of food donations came through the door. In order to make up the difference between what’s donated and what is given out or distributed must be purchased using financial donations made to The Salvation Army.
The Hibbing food shelf serves new families every day and it’s likely the demand will grow after another food shelf in town closes at the end of the month.
Additionally, Salvation Army food shelves in Minnesota are already preparing for the increase in need that annually coincides with the end of the school year. Children in struggling families who would normally qualify for the free or reduced lunch program at school will need to eat lunch at home during the summer, placing an extra burden on already tight budgets.
How to Help
The most effective way to help is to donate online to support our food shelves. Thanks to The Salvation Army’s buying power, your dollar goes three times further than if you purchase the items at the store yourself (watch video). Monetary gifts also give food shelves more flexibility to purchase perishable items like meat, dairy, and fresh produce.
Those who want to go the extra mile can also organize a food or product drive and donate the items to your nearest Salvation Army location. The most needed items are nonperishable foods, paper products, hygiene items and cleaning products.
*Study was conducted by the Twin Cities Salvation Army. Results are similar across Minnesota.