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Heating up to fight hunger: Bemidji food shelf takes part in statewide fundraising effort

Bemidji Community Food Shelf Farm Manager Rachel Schaap picks radishes on Thursday. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 2
Bemidji Community Food Shelf volunteer Seth Zins works in the food shelf's farm on Thursday. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 2

BEMIDJI—Just like the temperatures outside, fundraising efforts at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf are heating up for an annual statewide campaign.

The food shelf is one of many across Minnesota taking part in the Open Your Heart Summer Challenge. The challenge is a joint effort between Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless as well as Hunger Solutions. The two organizations are working with communities to help fundraise for food shelfs and will provide a partial match at the end of the month.

"That matching factor is really nice and it's also really helpful for us," said Mary Mitchell, executive director of the Bemidji food shelf. "Typically, we kind of start going in the hole during the summer. It's not like we don't have money, but sometimes we have to move money around in order to keep buying food and make it through the summer months."

Last year, 954 Beltrami County households visited in July, according to figures from the food shelf.

"Summer is a time of really high demand for us," Mitchell said. "Children are home from school and families find that they can't quite make it. About 70 percent of families that use the food shelf only come one-to-four times a year, and this is when they come here, this is when we see them."

According to the Open Your Heart website, in 2017, 155 food shelf programs completed the July fundraising challenge and received funds through the grant program. In total, all of the food shelf organizations raised $1.5 million and each received a portion of the $100,000 challenge grant.

Mitchell said making financial donations isn't the only way to contribute to the food shelf's cause, though.

"We're also looking for volunteers," she said. "We're looking for some people who have computer knowledge and those who've worked with the public."

The Bemidji Community Food Shelf is located at 1260 Exchange Ave. SE.

In 2017, the food shelf served 2,924 families, who made 11,282 visits.