At the Sept. 21 Cottage Grove City Council meeting, council member Steve Dennis raised concern about food prices, and in particular, how it is affecting senior citizens and assisted-living residents.
“Nationwide, food costs have increased over 14% this year, which is a substantial amount. On top of that, many of the assisted-living facilities have had to increase their cost factors. So this has created an issue. I would like to thank Mayor Bailey for reaching out to Michelle Rageth, the head of the Friends In Need Food Shelf,“ said Dennis.
“There is a fantastic opportunity available, in partnership through both Ramsey County and Washington County, called Optage Senior Dining Choices. What this is, in essence, is an opportunity to have chef-prepared meals delivered. Studies have shown that if people have one meal per day, that greatly helps them to be able to stay within their home, which is a very good and important thing to have happen. They can either be served warm, or they have frozen meals available as well. This is a program that is funded, and gives people the opportunity to make a free will donation if they want. If they can’t afford to do so, those meals are covered free of charge, which I think is fantastic,” added Dennis.
Speaking about recent community usage numbers, Assistant Director at Friends In Need Food Shelf Jill Hughes said, “We are up 43% since last year. From last summer it has jumped significantly, which we’ve attributed to inflation. It’s so much harder for people to afford food.
“When Covid first hit we saw a dramatic increase in giving. People that were able really felt compelled to help. It’s leveled off a bit now. We rely on our consistent donors to support us, because our client numbers have gone up now,” she added.
As for how the community can help, Hughes said, “Monetary donations are preferred. We can buy food at a discount from Second Harvest, so we can stretch it and buy $10 worth of food for a dollar. We can make money go further. If people want to donate specific items, we always suggest toiletries, because that is very needed as well. If people can’t afford food, they often are having a hard time buying basic toiletries as well, and we try to provide that too. We can stretch money further than what most can do at the grocery store. We can buy ten times more through Second Harvest, and make a more significant impact.”
Donations and volunteering opportunities can be found at www.finfood.org and www.Optage.org.