Rochester food shelves continue to see increasing demand while lacking volunteers

Food insecurity on the rise

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(ABC 6 News) – Food scarcity is on the rise throughout the United States, and the greater-Rochester area is no exception.

The increased demand at local food shelves pushes them to their limits, they say they need more volunteers and more support to make sure no one goes without food on the table.

Right now numbers show one in five children in the U.S. live in food insecure households, the highest rate since 2008.

— RELATED: Food insecurity rises nationwide ahead of holidays

“Our on site food shelf saw 8,875 house hold visits and in February of 2023,” said Jessica Sund, Director of Development and Communications for Channel One Food Bank. “That was actually more in the five thousands, it was actually about a 70 percent increase from year to year in February.”

And food shelves have found themselves on the front line of the issue.

“Where we were at one time seeing 30 individuals on a day, sometimes we’re seeing 70 individuals or families coming to our food shelf,” said Steve Friedreich, Program Director for Salvation Army Rochester.

With COVID-19 emergency SNAP benefits expiring at the end of February 2023, more people had to look else where for help.

“It hasn’t really stabilized and inflation continues to be a problem. So, it’s leaving families to reach out for support more than ever,” said Sund.

The higher demand means more rationing by shelves like Salvation Army which now limits food shelf visits to two per month.

— RELATED: Food security project connects food shelves as insecurity rises

“We’re a supplemental food shelf so we want to be worth your while when they come,” said Friedreich. “Sometimes when they come through here they see, ‘oh, well you guys don’t have a lot today so I’m not going to use my visit.'”

These issues highlight the need for volunteers as right now Channel One is short handed and needs at least 16-20 to keep up with the demand.

“To serve that many more individuals in our community is definitely hard on our staff so our staff is working extra hard , we’re trying to get more volunteers in to help with the workload. It’s extremely important to have these volunteers here to help us do this work,” said Sund.

— RELATED: Minn. food banks see record number of visits

But leaders at both the Salvation Army and Channel One are optimistic saying getting the word out about donations and the need for volunteers can help meet the increasing rates of hunger in our communities.

The Salvation Army will be partnering with the Rochester Post Office this spring for their first ever Stamp Out Hunger program where people can leave a grocery bag at their mail box on May 11.

The bag will be picked up by the post office and delivered to the Salvation Army.