North St. Paul Food Shelf to offer choice, evening hours

The resilient reputation of postal workers crumbled in the freeze of January’s polar vortex, which, understandably, forced a momentary halt to postal service. 

The North St. Paul Food Shelf, at its tiny outpost peeking out of the alley-like Seppala Boulevard, stayed open through the cold. When snow pummeled the area last week, the shelf was open; neither snow nor rain nor heat (or cold) will prevent the shelf from providing food.  

“There weren’t as many people when it was cold,” said food shelf manager Kathi Kirchoff, adding the average number of people did make it in despite the snow.

No matter the conditions or circumstances, people need food. People in the area have relied on the North St. Paul shelf since the early 1980s. It started out in the basement of the same building as a passion project of area churches before growing into a full-fledged nonprofit and moving upstairs. 

It is funded entirely through donations and staffed by volunteers. Some volunteers are neighbors coming alone, others are part of volunteer teams from regional organizations that partner with the shelf. 

For the first time, starting March 4, the shelf will offer people their choice of food. Before, food was prepackaged. The shelf, starting on March 5, will also offer nighttime hours. 

“Just today,” said Kirchoff during open hours on Feb. 7, “a woman said the packages have a lot of food.” Sometimes, the woman told Kirchoff, she and her mother can’t finish it. Or, pointed out Kirchoff, people leave with things they don’t want to eat. 

“If somebody doesn’t want green beans, we certainly don’t want them to take green beans.”

Kirchoff often hears from people who need food from the shelf, but can’t leave work to make the midday pickup. To accommodate them, volunteers will open the shelf one evening a week. 

With the task of packing now no longer needed, volunteers are freed up to concentrate more on stocking, greeting and checking people in, weighing and organizing food, and accepting donations, among other tasks. 

The shelf is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Evening hours will be on Tuesdays, beginning March 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. For more information call 651-770-1309. 

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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