Food bank feeds Wisconsin familiesShaye Moris loves her job. As executive director of Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, the Superior woman connects people with the food they need.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Shaye Moris loves her job. As executive director of Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, the Superior woman connects people with the food they need.
“To have a job that you go home every night and think ‘You know, what I did really helped somebody or helped the community,’” she said. “That’s just priceless.”
Although it’s located in Duluth, the site serves four Wisconsin counties – Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron -- along with four counties in Minnesota. One of the Feeding America system of food banks, Second Harvest receives 3.8 million pounds of nationally and regionally donated food each year – enough for 3.1 million meals. Bags, boxes, cans and cartons are stored it the non-profit organization’s 24,000 square foot warehouse until they are redistributed to a network of 200 program sites.
This isn’t a store. The food is free. But Second Harvest does charge a small fee to transport, store and deliver items – approximately 6 cents a pound.
“For $1 we can distribute $10 worth of food or enough food for five meals,” Moris said. “That’s basically because we’re not purchasing product, we’re paying transport and storage and handling … if that’s your only cost and the food is free, what an efficient way to feed people.”
That 10:1 ratio convinced Don Leighton and Mike Granlund to target Second Harvest with their “Hunger Takes No Holiday” fundraiser last year.
“This is a no-brainer because of the tremendous return for the original investment,” Leighton said. “That’s why I chose them.”
Donating to Second Harvest translates into more food for more people. According to Moris, 62 percent of the food that area food shelves distribute comes from the food bank.
“It helps out immensely in the meat department and with produce,” said Dori Stepan, food shelf director for the Salvation Army of Superior.
Over the last year, Second Harvest distributed 274,793 pounds of banked food to 10 agencies in Douglas County – the Salvation Army, Rural Care & Share Food Shelf, Gordon Area Food Shelf, Faith United Methodist Church, Challenge Center, Boys & Girls Club, HDC Faxon House, Freshwater Vineyard Church and the Nutrition On Weekends (NOW) program for homeless youth. The regular purchase price of those items would be $434,173, Moris said, but the total cost to organizations was only $16,489.’
“Not only do they get 274,000 pounds of food, they get it at a bargain price,” she said.
“What a great program,” Leighton said.
But that’s not all they do at Second Harvest. The food bank also rescues fresh and perishable food from Twin Ports grocery stores, hospitals, university campuses, restaurants and schools. The items – everything from flash frozen lasagnas and pizzas to deli meat and dairy products – are driven directly to 13 non-profit programs in the Twin Ports, including the Salvation Army and Faith United Methodist Church.
“It’s basically a grocery store on wheels,” Moris said. This local food never makes it to the Duluth warehouse. Instead, the truck driver makes the rounds of organizations until all the items are gone.
The fresh and perishable program was launched in 2003. Not only does it provide free food, it saves participating businesses money.
“Sometimes it’s hard to estimate the number of kids who will eat hot lunch or what they’re going to choose,” said Jeanne Hopkins, food service director for the Superior school district. If the leftovers can’t be reused the next day, they are frozen. Second Harvest picks the items up about once every two weeks.
“That way we’re not putting it in school dumpsters and having to pay to take it away,” Hopkins said.
A third program available to all 200 programs served by Second Harvest is the ability to buy needed items at warehouse prices, which is especially useful to small food shelves like that in Iron River, Moris said.
As Jan. 1 looms, many people are making resolutions – to lose weight, to be more positive, to support a group or agency. With a 10 to 1 ratio and the ability to reach throughout the area, supporting Second Harvest can make a big impact. The food bank gets no federal, state or local funding. Not a single tax dollar goes into its operation. About 20 percent of the budget – expected to be $1.4 million in 2011 – comes from fees paid by food shelves. The other 80 percent comes from individuals, businesses, organizations, the United Way and events like “Empty Bowl.” That doesn’t mean everyone should focus on Second Harvest, Moris said. Food collected in food drives should go to local food shelves, she said. And they also need funds for upkeep. But the Superior woman had a suggestion to those who want to stretch their donation dollars.
“If you’re going to make a $10 donation, consider $5 to us and $5 to your local agency,” she said.
Leighton said he’s never had to miss a meal. It took launching the first “Hunger Takes No Holiday” fundraiser for him to understand local food needs and the role Second Harvest plays in filling them. As he prepares for the second year of “Hunger Takes No Holiday,” he and Granlund are again looking to Second Harvest.
“It’s a bigger piece of the pie than you think it is,” Leighton said.
Along with monetary donations, Second Harvest is in need of volunteers to help sort, repackage and label food.
For more information on the food bank or volunteer opportunities, call (218) 727-5653 or visit www.northernlakesfoodbank.org.