Mobile food bank helps feed Carlton County
February 14, 2020
On the third Thursday morning of each month (10:30-11:30 a.m.), the Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry comes to the Our Savior's Lutheran Church parking lot in Cloquet to distribute food.
What is unique about this food bank operation? The patrons stay in their cars and have - if you total it all up at the end of the day - tons of food put into their cars, vans, and pickup boxes as they parade by local volunteers who load it up, 50-75 pounds at a time.
It's quite the operation.
Dan Wilson, Second Harvest program director, said the program aims to be here consistently, even in bad weather.
"We've only had to cancel or delay two of these monthly sessions in Carlton County due to weather. To me, this is pretty amazing," Wilson said. "One was the January 2020 session when wind chills were expected to be minus 30 degrees. That's why we were in Cloquet on the fourth Thursday last month."
Volunteers at the January mobile pantry in Cloquet included players from the Minnesota Wilderness, and representatives of Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning, Cloquet Country Club, Reliable Insurance Agency, and both Our Savior's and Our Redeemer's Lutheran churches, among others.
Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, with its headquarters and main warehouse by the Duluth airport, started the Cloquet mobile pantry in August 2017, in partnership with Our Savior's and other area churches.
In that original distribution session, the mobile pantry served 31 people with 12 volunteers.
Need and numbers have grown since then. In 2019, the food pantry averaged 551 people per month, providing 160,593 meals annually. More than 35 volunteers help each month, including folks from multiple churches, community groups, businesses, students and retirees. The food consists of local and national donations, commodities and bulk purchases. Additional fresh produce is provided in warmer months with some coming from Minnesota farmers.
The mobilepPantry is just one way Second Harvest helps serve Carlton County. Through various programs and partner agencies in Carlton County - including the BackPack and Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors with partners such as the Cloquet Salvation Army and HDC Outreach - 1,675 people are served a total of 404,990 meals.
Second Harvest distributed a record 5.1 million meals in for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin last year.
"It is bittersweet," shared Second Harvest Executive Director Shaye Moris. "On one hand, we're extremely proud of the work that our donors, volunteers and agency partners helped us accomplish. On the other hand, we haven't ended hunger in our region."
Second Harvest is the region's only food bank, and partners with many distribution agencies.
Second Harvest can trace its roots to 1984 in Gilbert, Minnesota where the agency assisted laid-off iron ore workers and their families during an economic recession that had crippled the area. Second Harvest now reaches every corner of the Northland.
"We should be proud as a region that we've provided so many meals to our neighbors in need," Moris continued.
To find out more about distribution qualifications or to answer your questions about volunteering, contact Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank at 218-727-5653. Anyone who needs help getting enough food for home can call 2-1-1, and they will help you connect with services.