2020 and Lessons Learned

The other day, our Volunteer Coordinator Debbie and I were looking back in our email, trying to answer a question about exactly when our programs changed in response to the pandemic. Little did we know that the process of going back in time in our Inboxes and Sent Folders would end up becoming an emotional reflection of the year. As we scrolled away in our respective offices, we exclaimed to each other about the many changes, amazing individuals, and the remarkable resiliency of our organization.

I can’t say that I ever took Bemidji Community Food Shelf for granted before 2020. I knew better. But the organization did seem to roll along, held up by our member churches and their wonderful volunteers, who came and went on a steady schedule. When the pandemic hit, that structure suddenly crumbled, with many – most – volunteers withdrawing from service. Suddenly we were adrift, knowing there was a huge need but not knowing how to continue. What a revelation it was when several area businesses loaned us their furloughed staff to get the food out to our neighbors. Our eyes and hearts were opened to the realization that the community sees us and understands and values the importance of our mission.

We needed a new roof. The bill was almost $80,000. We asked for help and were given it. Many donations and some grants funded our new roof, which was finished in June. We were having to turn away opportunities for large quantities of frozen meat because we didn’t have the freezer space. We asked for help and were given it, through a large bequest and COVID-19 Food Shelf funds. We installed a new, efficient walk-in freezer in November. We needed a different truck to allow us to progress to a mobile food shelf program and to pick up from our food bank. With COVID-19 Transportation funds, we purchased our large truck in September. Our office area was depressing, with dark wood paneling and worn carpet. An area business donated leftover carpet tiles and volunteers painted. We now have a bright and attractive space in which to work.

Our Farm, which over the years has relied heavily on the work of AmeriCorps teams, faced a huge challenge. We thought we would have to scale back dramatically. Amazingly, volunteers appeared from the ether, many coming every day. We had a record harvest of nearly 15,000 pounds of produce.

I am so blessed to be a part of this beautiful mission. 2020 has taught me so much about our community and how strong we can be in the face of dramatic change. I am comforted that the food shelf will survive thanks to the support of our community and beyond. I have come to more deeply value the individuals – staff, volunteers, customers, supporters – who, woven together, create Bemidji Community Food Shelf.

I wish you all blessings of peace and love in 2021. Happy New Year!

Mary Mitchell, BCFS Executive Director

BCFS seeks volunteer drivers

Bemidji Community Food Shelf is seeking volunteers to drive our truck to our food bank in East Grand Forks. No lifting is required. Trips will be approximately every 2-3 weeks. Days are flexible. BCFS will cover the cost of the required DOT exam. Must have a current MN license and a clean driving record. If interested, please call Mary at 218-444-6580.

Welcome to the Farm at the Food Shelf!

This was a wonderful year for growing! The 2020 harvest is in at The Farm at the Food Shelf and it was an outstanding year. Despite challenges involving the loss of volunteer groups and organizations due to COVID-19, nearly 15,000 pounds of produce was harvested for area families, a new record for the farm. Thank you to the many wonderful and dedicated volunteers who stepped up to ensure the health of our community. Thank you too, to our financial supporters for understanding the value of this amazing project.

2020 Friend of the Farm Award

And…..the BCFS 2020 Friend of the Farm Award goes to….CHRIS TOWER!
For the last several years, Chris has spearheaded the planting and growing of seedlings for the Farm at the Food Shelf. Many of these were sold at the annual plant sale with proceeds going to the Farm, and the remaining plants were planted on the Farm. In addition, this year he built raised beds and created a large rain garden. Chris is a member of our Farm Vision Committee. We are so grateful for his dedication to our community!

Here’s the man himself receiving his Friend of the Farm Award today from Executive Director Mary and Farm Manager Dorothy.

Reopening our Building

We are excited to share the news that we will be reopening our building starting 10 a.m. Monday, October 5. Please be patient with us as we navigate a new system and attempt to limit the number of people in the building. Masks and social distancing will be mandated for everyone. Our hours of operation will continue to be M and W 10 a.m – 3 p.m. until further notice.

We will offer a prepacked box, and choices of frozen and refrigerated items, baked goods, and produce.

Here is how it will work: Customers will park in the north parking lot, across from the field. They will take a number from the dispenser under the portico and return to their vehicle. When the electronic display in the window shows their number, they may enter the building. We will be returning to interviews again so having an ID is a good idea.

If you take the bus, please call us to make an appointment at 218-444-6580.