Food shelf saves widow, kids from going hungry

Mar 10, 2020

Latoya of South Minneapolis hasn’t visited a Salvation Army food shelf in many years, because she hasn’t needed to.

But lately, times have been hard for the 40-year-old single mother. Several months ago, her husband of 20 years died unexpectedly, leaving her to care for her family all by herself. She has three kids, ages 10, 16, and 17. 

“It’s been a trial for me and the kids to stay afloat,” said Latoya (pictured right).

Thankfully, Latoya and her kids have been able to lean on The Salvation Army, our donors, and our volunteers. Through the generosity of our supporters, Latoya recently received a week’s worth of groceries at The Salvation Army in South Minneapolis – including fresh produce, milk, beans, frozen chicken, canned goods, and more. 

“I wholeheartedly appreciate this help because I didn’t know where our next meal would come from today,” Latoya said. 

Despite her struggles, Latoya is staying strong for her family, and she is using their difficult circumstances to teach her children a lesson about humility. 

“I always tell my kids not to be too proud to ask for help, to have humility,” Latoya said. “We are in the worst of times right now, but community support like this is what’s getting us through.”

The South Minneapolis Salvation Army is one of 24 food shelves operated by The Salvation Army in Minnesota and North Dakota. All of these locations serve families like Latoya’s who are doing their best but sometimes need extra help. 

“Most of these families work but still don’t earn enough money to live,” said Hannah Gerdes (pictured with Latoya), social services coordinator at the South Minneapolis Salvation Army. “The cost of expenses such as housing and childcare is too high for them.”

Donations, volunteers needed

All of our food shelf locations need more help from people like you. 

Donations of food and money are needed so that our food shelves can stay open longer and serve more people (give now). Example: The South Minneapolis Salvation Army receives its weekly food shipment of perishable items every Monday (pictured) and almost always runs out by Thursday. With an added supply of perishable foods such as meat, milk, eggs, and produce, this location could remain open on Fridays and serve more people in need.

“Even an extra $200 per month could get us much more fresh produce than what we already have,” Gerdes said. “We’d love to stock more fruits like lemons and limes, which our Hispanic guests use in their cooking.”

Our food shelves need volunteers as well (sign up now). Volunteering is a fun, fast and easy way to serve your community. You’ll sort donations, stock shelves, help families pick out the foods they want, and see lots of smiling faces. 

And you’ll meet other volunteers who share your passion for helping others. People like Lilly (pictured right), 66, who’s been volunteering at the South Minneapolis Salvation Army for an astounding 21 years. 

“I love helping out,” said Lilly, who volunteers for an hour or two several days per week. “It’s fun and it gets me out of the house.”

Get involved

Now through April 12 is Minnesota FoodShare Month, the state’s biggest food drive of the year. No matter if you live in Minnesota or North Dakota, now is the perfect time to help The Salvation Army Northern Division get more food into the fridges and pantries of families in need.

Here are three easy ways to help:

Volunteer: Find a Salvation Army food shelf near you and sign up to volunteer.

Donate: Give a one-time donation or drop off food or money at your local Salvation Army. Even better, become a recurring donor. Your monthly gift of any amount will help to ensure that families in need have healthy meals to eat, all year long.   

Grow a row: Gardening season is near. As you prepare to plant this year’s crop, resolve to “grow a row” for families served by Salvation Army food shelves. You can maximize your donations by planting fast-growing veggies such as baby carrots, beets, lettuce, squash, and cucumbers. Other helpful produce includes snap peas, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. Donate your produce at your nearest Salvation Army location throughout summer and fall.   

The Salvation Army Northern Division pledges to do the most good with your gifts of time and money, with 81 cents of every dollar going directly to services. Join us by volunteering or giving a donation to support your local community. 

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