Local Foodshelf Losing Federal Food Supply Due to Shutdown

About 26 percent of STEP's food comes from the USDA.

The state shutdown will have a very real impact on the food shelf, especially if the shutdown drags on.

Roughly 26 percent of the nonprofit food shelf’s regular food supply comes free of charge from a federal program that supplies USDA commodity items to states for distribution, said Kate Burggraff, who is the food shelf manager. With the shutdown in effect, that food won’t come STEP’s way, meaning the food shelf could see its average monthly food expense of between $5,000 and $6,000 double in July, which is generally a busy month to begin with.

Still, Burggraff said STEP will do everything it can to maintain service levels.

“STEP has a commitment to the St. Louis Park community that we’ll be able to provide food,” she said.

Another challenge could be increased food shelf usage. With a number of state human service programs shutting down, Burggraff said she would anticipate that more people will turn toward places like STEP. Already she said she’s received a high number of calls from people looking to set up appointments for next week.

If STEP is stretched really thin by a long shutdown, Burggraff said a local fundraiser would be a very real possibility. She said area food shelves might also work on ways to help each other with client loads. Currently, STEP only helps St. Louis Park residents.

Other nonprofits throughout Minnesota will also be impacted by the shutdown. Many receive government funding, whether from the local, state or federal level. In some cases, federal dollars are dispersed through state agencies and if there’s no one at the state level to receive receipts and allocate money, nonprofits are left without that funding.

It could spell trouble for many nonprofits, forcing them to discontinue programming, cut staffing or shutter altogether—either temporarily or permanently.

Minnesota’s 3,750 nonprofits employ one of every nine workers in the state, according to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, earning wages of $13.2 billion in 2009. Slightly more than half of those workers—about 153,000—are in the Twin Cities metro area.

“If (the shutdown) lasts more than three or four weeks, I think it’s at that point that you’re going to start seeing nonprofits getting into the next phase of their contingency planning,” said Frank Forsberg, senior vice president of community impact for the Greater Twin Cities United Way, which has nearly 200 agency partners and helps fund more than 400 programs.

Forsberg said United Way officials work with partners on an ongoing basis to create multiple contingency plans and put cash-flow resources in places to bridge any unforeseen or significant losses of funding, state or otherwise.

With the writing on the wall, he said planning elevated a month ago when a shutdown seemed inevitable.

The United Way, which raised $88.5 million in 2010, altered its disbursement schedule to help its sponsored programs to continue running.

Typically, Forsberg said, United Way pays monthly installments to its partners. To help protect the programs during the shutdown, United Way advanced three months’ worth of allocations for agencies most impacted.

“We are hearing from a lot of our members that they are making a lot of tough decisions,” said Christine Durand, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

MCN briefings to help nonprofit groups grapple with the effects of a shutdown began three weeks ago and will continue, Durand said. Among the topics: how to lay off and furlough workers.

Their work “touches every Minnesotan in some way, shape or form,” Durand said, but “they can’t run on air.”

Heather G July 01, 2011 at 06:07 PM
I have faith that if STEP needs to hold a fund raiser, SLP will come through. I moved here from FL 4 yrs ago & find this tobe an amazing community!
strangedub July 01, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Hey, just FYI: I found this story excerpted on Huffington Post with a link to St. Louis Park Patch.com full story. Good story......bad times for Minnesota due to GOP unwilling to raise taxes on 0.13% of Minnesotans. Immoral, disgusting hypocrisy.
Kate Burggraff July 03, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Good news! STEP and other food shelves will now be able to receive TEFAP foods during the state shutdown. Very helpful news as food shelves prepare to serve larger numbers of families due to increased need during the summer and the shutdown. Thanks, St. Louis Park Patch & readers, for sharing the news and no doubt helping to reverse this decision!


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