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Augustana residents do their part

March is the month to restock the food shelves around the area, including the emergency food shelf at Hastings Family Service.

Each year MN FoodShare Month provides awareness and education about the ongoing need for assistance, and the opportunity to provide help through food and/or cash donations.

All food and cash donated during March is proportionately matched by Minnesota FoodShare and by the Feinstein Foundation Challenge to Fight Hunger.

Chaplain Alex Treitler's Bible Study group at Augustana Care Center is doing their part, too. They held a food drive last year during FoodShare Month, collecting $30 and 272 pounds of food. Residents at both Augustana and the Park Ridge apartments have collected 572 pounds of food.

As of last week, the drive is under way again with two food bins and a cash donation box near the building's main entrance. They will be there throughout the month of March.

Resident Marie Stover initiated the drive.

"I wanted them (the residents) to be more open with their purses," she said.

Residents, family members, staff and visitors were invited to participate. They did, and that is the hope again this year.

Most in the Bible Study group also play bingo and Marie encouraged them to contribute their winnings - 25 cents a game for a winner.

Hastings Family Service Executive Director Chris Koop said that amount can buy two pounds of ground beef through the Food Bank. She attended the drive kick-off at Augustana and provided a brief update on Hastings Family Service programs.

A total of 3,500 different people came to Hastings Family Service last year for food, help with rent, paying their utilities and more.

"Hastings is a special community," she said. "Here, there is a sense of taking care of your neighbor that is not present in other (communities)."

The emergency food shelf provides food for 350 people each month. The number has remained fairly consistent for the past several years, said Koop.

"It is so much more complicated," she said. "When they come in for food, they usually need other services such as clothing, help with their rent."

As part of the visit to Hastings Family Service, each client meets with a social worker on a one-to one-basis. Koop estimated that about 75 percent of the people who receive food assistance only came in one or two times last year.

"We work with the families, and can refer them to different programs for help," said Koop.

Suggested food items for the food shelf include soups, box dinners and canned juices. They can be dropped off at Augustana Care Center during regular hours.