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Families Turn To The Open Door Food Pantry In Eagan Amid COVID-19 Uncertainty

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Seventeen miles south of the cities, and a stone's throw from the outlet malls, you'll find a bustling food shelf in the heart of Eagan.

"The thing that really blows people's minds is that poverty lives in the suburbs," Jason said.

Jason is the Executive Director of this suburban food shelf -- a job, a mission, that's personal.

"I grew up in the south, single-parent situation, and I remember asking my Mom why she wasn't eating when I was 5 years old," Jason explained.

It's a situation many more people are experiencing as of late. Since COVID hit, the need in the south metro has been so big that the Open Door food shelf has tripled their operation.

"Seventy percent of the folks who have come to those food drives have never been to a food shelf before and they really appreciate the anonymity of it," Jason said.

We talked with one of the satisfied clients, a new mother who lost her job at Mall of America.

"Since COVID I haven't been working so instead of going to grocery stores, it's a lot easier to come to Open Door," she explained.

COVID-19 also took a hit on the volunteers.

"So many of our volunteers were in an at-risk category because of their age and they chose to step back. We've turned over 90% of our volunteer pool," Jason said.

Stacey Notch is one of the new volunteers. After COVID put her in early retirement she got to work at Open Door. Now she recommends others follow suit.

"Go outside your comfort zone, find some time on your calendar, check it out and you might just find some of that inspiration, some of that passion and be a part of something bigger," Notch said.

And Open Door is bigger than ever before -- they've taken their fresh produce operation on the road with 30 mobile sites in the south metro.

"That's one of the things I hope people take out of COVID is how close so many of us are to needing help," Jason explained. Everyone needs help and no one likes asking for it so why not make it as easy as possible."

To learn more about The Open Door click here.

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