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Church dinners may continue under new law

politics Hastings,Minnesota 55033
Hastings Star Gazette
Church dinners may continue under new law
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota churches and other civic organizations have Goodhue County churches to thank for being able to continue their fund-raising meals.

Cathy Thiel and Pat Irruthum of Wanamingo jumped into action more than a year ago when a state Health Department inspector told St. Paul's Catholic Church in Zumbrota it no longer could hold the traditional church meals offered to the public.

"I felt strongly that church dinners should continue," Thiel said Monday after Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a provision allowing church, sportsmen, fraternal and patriotic organizations to continue their fund-raising food sales.

Dayton signed the bill as Thiel, Irruthum and others from southeast Minnesota's Goodhue County looked on.

"The system really works," Thiel said.

Wanamingo Mayor Ron Berg, also watching the bill signing, said a church fund-raiser may pay heating bills for a winter.

Organizations such as the Lions Club also will benefit from the new law, the mayor said.

Twenty to 25 such groups use the Wanamingo community room each year for food-related fundraisers, City Administrator Michael Boulton said.

The dust-up over food came about after Goodhue County dropped its enforcement of state health laws and a state inspector decided to get tough on church dinners, Boulton said. That spurred the church ladies into action, getting more than 400 signatures seeking a change.

The Goodhue County women went to Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, for help. Their bill passed in the legislative session that ended two weeks ago.

The law requires a representative of any organization that sells food to be trained in food safety. That is fine with Thiel because it allows St. Paul's and other groups to continue to make money.

"Church dinners have been a part of our lives for generations," Thiel said. "Church dinners will be as safe as they ever were."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.