By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — A lot of people are out shopping this weekend, planning for that big Thanksgiving feast. It’s hard to imagine some would ever go hungry on Thanksgiving, but it’s a rising reality for Minnesotans.

Annetta Willers runs the Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP) food pantry in Brooklyn Park and said they don’t have enough Thanksgiving meals to match the need.

The pantry is part of the Emergency Food Shelf Network’s “Baskets of Hope” program, which allows the pantry to give out 350 Thanksgiving meals to families in need. Willers said they received so many calls, the supply has already run out.

“To have the phones ring that fast and be done in a day and a half was overwhelming,” said Willers. “The Thanksgiving or Christmas programs, that the numbers are just exploding. People that are working getting hours cut, out of work, money is just not going as far.”

The latest numbers show one in five families with children in the Twin Cities have trouble putting food on the table, according to Hunger Solutions Minnesota. That’s the hunger relief organization representing Minnesota’s six Feeding America-affiliated food banks and more than 300 food shelves along with food distribution centers.

The organization also said in the first half of 2010, the number of people using food shelves is up 12 percent in the metro area. That’s about 193,000 people, or about the populations of Edina, Woodbury and Bloomington combined. Between 2008 and 2009, metro area food shelves saw an increase of 39 percent.

It’s a rising problem that captured attention over at Minnesota’s State Capitol Saturday.

At a press conference alongside Governor Pawlenty, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association donated around $6,000 dollars and 16,700 pounds of turkey to area food shelves. They said it’s enough to feed 21,000 people.

Colleen Moriarty with Hunger Solutions accepted the donation, which she called a necessity for many struggling families.

“A third of the households served by food shelves have at least one working adult in them, so these are working people who are not able to provide enough for our families,” she said.

Advocates rely on the community to step up the table. Pantries and food shelves said they can best benefit from cash donations, where the dollars can stretch further when the organizations purchase the food themselves.

The CEAP pantry said people still looking for a meal this Thanksgiving should call the United Way call center at 211 from any landline or 651-291-0211 from any cell phone.

Those who want to donate to the Baskets of Hope program can do so at the Emergency Food Shelf Network website.


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