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Food Shelf Donations Down Sharply As Pandemic Rages On: 'Winter Is Coming'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Food shelves are struggling to keep up because of COVID-19.

About 800 families used to pass through PRISM Marketplace Food Shelf in Golden Valley each month. Since the pandemic, that number has grown to 1,200 families per month -- but donations aren't growing with it.

Michelle Ness is PRISM's executive director.

"We've seen huge growth in the numbers," Ness said.

Huge growth when it comes to need, but not when it comes to food donations, which are down 50%.

"Many of those that we serve are elderly, and we know about half of those that are served are kids," Ness said.

She says contributions were rolling in early in the pandemic, but they've fallen off recently. Since March, they've been doing drive-thru service for families, but the plan is to safely re-open the food store by mid-October, as they expect the need to be even greater in the coming months.

"COVID's not going away, but winter is coming," Ness said.

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

Fewer donations is one thing. Fewer volunteers is another. Since the beginning of the pandemic, volunteer hours have dropped by 90% at PRISM. Terri Moore is a current volunteer.

"I have noticed there's really a drop off in the number of people per shift. Normally there would be four or five people. Today there were two of us," Moore said.

She has been gone since the beginning of COVID, but recently came back. Since most volunteers are retirees in a high-risk age group, Moore is not sure how many will come back with her.

"It feels like I'm making a little difference. I can't do a lot necessarily, but you know, every little bit is a little step up for somebody," she said.

That's the message PRISM and other food shelves are trying to get out.

"We're empowered when we know that the community supports us. The need is real," Ness said.

She says another challenge for them this winter will be helping families in need with rent payments.

Click here for information on how to help PRISM.

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