BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Cans of vegetables were ripped open in the Community Center on Penn Avenue South as dinner was prepared for dozens of hungry Minnesotans on Tuesday.
It was just one of 12 Loaves and Fishes volunteer feeding sites in the Twin Cities.
Loaves and Fishes serves 1,600 such hot meals a day at their sites across the Metro. They intend to add more, in part, because the need is growing.
According to a new report by Hunger Solutions Minnesota, 8,500 people rely on Food Shelves for sustenance each day in the Twin Cities. In fact, the report said food shelf use in the Metro area has grown by 59 percent since 2007. Further, families with children accounted for 1.2 million of the visits to food shelves in 2012.
Hunger Solutions used their study to underline their concern about planned cuts in funding for programs nationally including the SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) program in Minnesota.
"We will serve about 160 meals (on Tuesday)," said Kathy Tominski, site manager for Loaves and Fishes in Bloomington.
Her staff of volunteer preparers and servers began arriving about 3 p.m. They began serving at 5:30 p.m.
"We have young families. We have elderly couples," said Tominski. "We have a lot of singles and a lot of married couples that come. We have had couples meet each other here, singles meet each other and get married. We have, maybe, a half dozen homeless men and women that come here as well, either living in the bushes around here or they live in their cars."
Tominski said funding for her program comes mainly from private donations and grants through groups like Hunger Solutions Minnesota. The United Way adds a small part of their budget, but there is always a need for more money and more help.
"It is so hard," said Tominski. "People are strapped and our businesses as well as the churches, they are strapped and they are doing all they can do to provide a meal. But, boy, we have got to keep working on grants and foundations."
Tominski urged volunteers who wish to help to call Loaves and Fishes main office at 612-377-9810 or her Bloomington office at 952-948-0746.
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