MN food pantries get produce from individual farmers

MARSHALL, Minn. (AP) -- Food organizations that operate pantries in recent years have placed greater emphasis on fresh produce, relying on a variety of sources including the good will of individual gardeners in southwestern Minnesota.

Farmer Dennis Stelter, 83, donated about 1,000 pounds of vegetables to the Kitchen Table Food Shelf in Marshall last year.

"Makes you feel good, that you can help some people out," Stelter said.

Stelter is expected to donate even more produce this year, including zucchini, squash and cucumbers. His garden is nearly the size of two basketball courts.

"It's my good deed for the summer, I suppose," Stelter said.

Kitchen Table Food Shelf volunteers coordinator Lori Lerohl said Stelter comes in with donations nearly every day.

"Really brightens our day when he comes because he's always got a smile on his face," Lerohl said. "And he knows that he's really blessing other people."

Bob Chatmas is chief operating officer for Twin Cities-based food bank Second Harvest Heartland. Over the past few years, food organizations have transitioned from focusing on canned products that can be easily stored for long periods of time to searching out fresh produce, he said.

He said food pantries hope to decrease fruit and vegetable waste and provide it to low-income people who can't afford to buy fresh produce.

"We know that people who are hungry appreciate fresh and nutritious food, so having more produce and growing our produce to distribute to our hungry neighbors is absolutely the right thing to do," Chatmas said.

Chatmas estimates that Second Harvest has tripled the amount of produce it distributes since 2012.

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