Food shelves shift into holiday high gear

Need for meals, food baskets continues to rise

Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities registers thousands for holiday bags
Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities distributing holiday bags

This has always been the favorite time of year in America for folk to look forward to tables just chock full of food. Over the past several years or more, our ever-worsening economy has the number of those who can afford to look forward to the holidays steadily decreasing. They joined the many who’ve never had the opportunity to experience the proverbial American Dream: those who would accrue material wealth without the slightest concern for those having to live hand to mouth.

Related content: Thanksgiving meals and resources 2015

The whole time food shelves have been there, serving a dire need year-round, and at the holidays stepping up their efforts to help bring dinner for Thanksgivings Day and Christmas to disadvantaged households.

Jericho Road Ministries at 1628 East 33rd St. in South Minneapolis is a fairly new initiative, established under Bethlehem Urban Initiatives in 2011. Unlike most such programs, visitors need not reside within a given area. And instead of being limited to once a month, they can come in twice.

It’s run by director Jeff Noyed and development director John Bohnsack with a small staff. Noyed is a firm believer in rolled-up sleeves and hands-on administration, from constant telephone calls and endless paperwork to setting up tables and chairs for each Friday’s produce distribution.

He reflects, “Maybe that’s from where I come from. Living with my father and grandfather who were farmers, food has been kind of my family heritage. Being involved with this type of work goes right in hand with that.”

On November 20 from 10 am until noon, partnering with Union Gospel Mission, Second Harvest, and Good in the Hood, Jericho Road Ministries takes an extra step giving out its usual allotment as well as Thanksgiving food baskets. In 2014, 275 packages were put together. They’ve managed to up that count to 300 this time around.

“That’s a few more baskets, a little more food that will be out there,” says Noyed. To those additional 25, it’s a little that certainly is appreciated. “Every single month [we] are seeing the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives who, for various reasons, the budget isn’t enough to cover all circumstances. So, they need help with food.

“[During] holidays in particular, there are increased costs from Thanksgiving meals to other things. It always feels good to be involved in doing something about that.”

As soon as the one occasion is tended to, Christmas is right around the corner with the same need to fill. Jericho will, of course, handle its regular workload as well.

As to giving Santa an assist, Noyed says, “We’re envisioning a few things that are in the works, but I can’t say any more than that right now.” Understandably, first things come first. You address one situation and then figure out how you’re going to handle the next one.

“Once Thanksgiving is concluded, we’ll probably have [Christmas] set to go.” Registration has been completed for the giveaway, but, anyone can come down on the day and be placed on a waiting list as people don’t always show up.

Meanwhile, Fairview Clinic will be onsite giving free flu shots, which as Noyed points out also helps with life’s necessities. “Not everyone has health insurance, or even sick days. For a lot of us, if you can’t make it [to] work, you don’t get paid.”

Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities registers thousands for holiday bags
Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities registers thousands for holiday bags

Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities is a Christian service agency that works to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual and educational needs of the economically disadvantaged of the Twin Cities. Dr. Charles P. Morgan, chief executive officer of Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, explains in a press release, “The bags of food only cost about $35. Each year, we have friends and neighbors in need at our men’s campus, eagerly anticipating getting their bag.

“Why is this? Because this food makes a huge difference in a family’s budget for November. But that meal is just the first step toward hope. At UGMTC, hope begins with a meal. When people are fed, they have strength to focus on their choices and future plans.”

With considerably deeper pockets, Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities of St. Paul, operating since 1902, will, on Thanksgivings Day, provide upwards of 50,000 meals to the public in the form of 10,000 bags of food — each able to feed a family of five. They’ll also deliver hot dinners to roughly 1,100 people living in low-income housing and serve dinner to 400-500 at 435 University Avenue East, St. Paul.

In addition, part of the 10,000 bags will go to approximately 1,100 National Guard families in the Twin Cities, providing relief to the families of those serving locally and around the globe.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.

For more resources see: Thanksgiving meals and resources 2015