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Local food pantry sees growth in food donations during holiday time

Food donations for the Mitchell Food Pantry this year are "above and beyond." The Salvation Army manages the food pantry, and while the group might not be seeing a lot of success with the red kettle drive, the food donations keep stocking up, acc...

Food donations for the Mitchell Food Pantry this year are "above and beyond."

The Salvation Army manages the food pantry, and while the group might not be seeing a lot of success with the red kettle drive, the food donations keep stocking up, according to Maj. Vickie Cole.

The food pantry is open from noon to 3 p.m. everyday, Cole said, and clients can come every 30 days. Cole estimates there are 200-250 clients stopping by the food pantry every month, with a growing need during the winter and holiday time of year.

"During this time of the year and in the winter months especially, we see a need and more donations growing," Cole said. "The summers are hardest. It's hard to get food in the summer, but right now, it's that time of year at Christmas when people are very giving and collecting food."

Cole attributes the success around the holidays to the general spirit of giving the time brings, but also to the volunteers who show up. Each month there are at least 15 volunteers helping stock and sort food, she said.

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While many groups and individuals volunteer their time for the Salvation Army, Cole said there's one group in particular that has helped out with the food pantry significantly - Dakota Wesleyan University.

This past semester, a class at DWU called Ending Hunger spent months participating in a service-based learning project, which included volunteering at the Mitchell Food Pantry.

One of the projects was about food recovery, in which students went around Mitchell collecting leftover produce from gardens and bringing it to the food pantry, according to Carly Hubers, the program coordinator of the McGovern Center.

"We got to talk to the class as it wrapped up here at the end of the semester and they said that one interesting thing was just to see that there is a need here in the community," Hubers said. "It's easy to think about hunger as something that happens away in another country, but it's also happening here in the Mitchell community."

Students helped in various ways with the food pantry. Aside from donating items such as produce, Hubers said they also spent time volunteering with sorting and stacking food.

By doing this, they had a first-hand look at the types of items in need at the pantry, but also the items that are most donated.

According to Cole, the pantry receives a lot of eggs, and when clients come in they can be sent with dozens at a time. But other foods are lacking, including fruit, bottles of juice, cereal, Hamburger Helper, macaroni and cheese, fruit and cans of tuna. The item the pantry needs more of, however, is meat products, Cole said.

With the lack of meat product donations, clients aren't always able to get well-rounded meals. And that's exactly what the DWU students learned, according to Hubers.

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"How can you get a well-rounded meal if the only source of food is food pantries? And how do we play a role in that? So I think students got to see what that really looks like and what might be lacking from a food pantry ..." Hubers said. "The most surprising thing to a lot of people when they first start to explore the issue of hunger is who goes to a food pantry is the realization that people are using it, especially if you are lucky enough to have food in your table regularly it's hard to imagine it in your own backyard."

To donate food items or other monetary donations to the Food Pantry or the Salvation Army, Cole said people can stop by the office located at 724 N. Sanborn Blvd.

"They can bring it on down and we'll be glad to use it," Cole said.

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