Providing food and support since 1977, the White Bear Area Food Shelf (WBAFS) strives to put an end to food insecurity.
As a critical resource, the food shelf has eliminated barriers that have traditionally limited families from living a healthy lifestyle. Through a variety of food programs, they are able to provide a multitude of essential food items such as fresh produce, meat, milk, eggs, deli and bakery items, and dry goods. Additional programs, including KID packs, mobile markets, school food pantries and others, help to expand their reach.
“A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck and when something happens, we are a place that they can go to for care,” says Perry Petersen, executive director of the WBAFS.
The food shelf continues its mission through the community’s willingness to share their resources. Sourcing their products from local food banks like Second Harvest and The Food Group, the WBAFS also receives donations from five local grocers, organizations and community members.
Given the effects of COVID-19, Peterson says the biggest challenge has been navigating through the unknown. With a desire to keep everything as safe as possible while still providing for those who need it most, the organization has since converted their walk-in food shelf to a drive thru. Monday and Tuesday (from 4:30 to 7 p.m.) and Wednesday and Friday (from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; check website for new hours beginning in November), folks pull up to the WBAFS location and receive prepackaged to-go bags stocked with dairy, meat, and frozen and dry good items; a community resource team is also available for those who can’t get to the location.
“There is plenty of food in the world,” says Petersen. “But in many ways, it is just a matter of the redistribution of it.”
By the Numbers
- From the start of quarantine, WBAFS went from helping an average of 30 families a day to a range from 55 to 120.
- During the last six weeks of the last school year, the food shelf went from providing an average of 300 KID packs a week to 750.
- WBAFS provided over 155 families with fresh produce during their summer farmers’ markets.
COVID-19 has decreased the need for volunteers because of a lack in space to adequately and safely sort products. Given this, Peterson advises community members to donate funds instead. Through their partnerships with various nonprofits and local businesses, the food shelf is able to multiply and increase the value of an average donation from a community member.
“For every dollar you would spend at a grocery store, we would be able to buy eight dollars’ worth of food through our connections,” he says.
To donate, visit online at whitebearfoodshelf.org or submit payments by mail.