Princeton Pantry received extra holiday cheer this season through donations, but if there was ever a time for that need, it appears to be now.
That is because of the higher than normal number of families coming to the food shelf for help, according to Princeton Pantry coordinator Joyce Neumann. But first, the holiday cheer.
Neumann reported this week that the food shelf received an anonymous donation of $100 with a note signed by Santa on Nov. 14. She didn’t know if it had been placed there through the mail slot or dropped off, or what, but it was “awesome,” she said.
Then there was the gentleman a few weeks ago, Neumann said on Monday, who asked if money goes farther than just giving food. When he learned that it does, he wrote a check for $500.
There was also the recent donation from someone who works for Connexus Energy, Neumann said. The man wrote a personal check for $750 and explained that Connexus would then match that with $750.
The Princeton School District also had food donation drives this fall. The high school had a big food drive that brought in more than 1,000 food items and the school district office building recently collected about 365 caps, mittens and scarves. Most of these winter clothing items went to Princeton Pantry, but some were also delivered to Christ Our Light Church, to the His Givers group, and to places in Milaca and Elk River, according to the superintendent’s secretary Angel Oswald.
Businesses have also been donating, as have churches. Coborn’s has been turning over soon-to-expire food to Princeton since February, that has amounted to thousands of pounds, and at least one local gardener has donated produce.
The shelves at Princeton Pantry looked well filled on Monday as volunteers stocked them with recently-donated food, such as from the high school.
The record demand
But while this holiday season and the March food drive result in the biggest annual donation spikes that keep Princeton Pantry going during the year, the food also goes out about as fast, Neumann said.
Thirty-one families came into Princeton Pantry on Nov. 14 this year, setting a record for the most families there in one day. But five days later on Nov. 19, 32 families walked in, setting a new record. Nov. 16 wasn’t much different, with 30 families there. That’s 93 families in just three days, and when you feed just 31 families “it is unbelievable how many pounds of food that is,” Neumann said.
“We expect November to be much higher (than other Novembers),” Neumann continued. “I don’t know why.”
But Neumann did say that this is the time when people have to purchase heating fuel and parents are spending what they can on gifts for their children, so money becomes more scarce.
So, despite the large amount of people giving of late, Princeton “always needs donations,” Neumann said.
She told of one family who recently moved into the Princeton area (she didn’t know if it was into the city or rural part) who had to put down a $300-400 electrical deposit. This is also the flu season and one trip to the doctor with a prescription to fill can cost at least $100, Neumann added.
But while Neumann and the Princeton Pantry board of directors always welcome food or monetary donations, she also brought up one more need. The building that Princeton Pantry is in behind the K-Bob Cafe, is too small, she said.
Because of that, Neumann explained, the pantry board is seeking another location and hopes it could either get a suitable building donated or offered at a good price. It needs to be in the city and have a parking lot, Neumann said.