ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) – They are not just classrooms, computer labs and gymnasiums. Many Minnesota high schools now have food shelves. The need is especially great in Twin Cities suburbs, including Anoka County.

The latest survey found that more than 1,400 people are homeless in Anoka County, and nearly 600 are children in families. Even more startling is the increase in young adults ages 18 to 21 who are homeless.

Two years ago, there were 54, and now that number has doubled to 108.

Teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin School District are watching out for children who are in need. There are warning signs that they might not have basic necessities like food. Maybe they wear the same clothes to class daily, or don’t have a coat when it’s cold. District administrators said the need for feeding families through school isn’t going away.

“I’m very, very thankful that this is here,” said 16-year-old Alexis. “Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have any food at all.”

She comes to the food bank in Coon Rapids High School. She’s the one helping feed her family, after her mother suffered financial problems and lost her job.

“I get food from here all the time, a lot,” she said. “It means that we actually have food at our house, so our family can eat, especially my brother.”

In fact, up to 30 students get food from this same food shelf every week. It’s one of eight in district middle and high schools. District administrators said they think all the district’s middle schools will have a food shelf next year.

Teacher Holli Moseman helped start the newest food shelf at Anoka High School in the last month.

“Before we really started this, I didn’t think much about the struggles they might be having at home.  Now it’s the first thing that comes to mind,” she said.

Moseman knows that hungry stomachs don’t do well in class, and there are many children who need help at the school. Nearly 800 students qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“They can’t learn if they don’t have their basic needs met,” said Moseman. “So this is a really real way to help kids and make an impact on their lives.”

In high school, discretion is key. The kids who need help come to Anoka High School’s food shelf on Friday afternoons. They walk in, pick up a backpack of food for the weekend and walk right out. They blend in fine with everyone else at schools, and the contents of the backpack stay with them.

Inside that backpack, there are breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack items for at least one weekend day.

Residents and church groups are donating the food. One student was even seen crying when they saw a bottle of shampoo, because they hadn’t been able to wash their hair.

“It makes it easier to know we’ll have food at home, and we don’t have to worry about the money,” said Alexis.

Comments (13)
  1. Nancy Aleshire says:

    Great idea, but what is being done at elementary schools? Troubling thought of little first graders going hungry.

    1. Ally James says:

      We started in our elementary schools too.. 🙂 Sad but true. It really is happening at all levels…

    2. sk8erma88 says:

      Nancy – the elementary social workers are able to access the high school and middle school food shelves and they are also aware of other community resources to provide families in need. Thanks for your compassion!

  2. ipmutt says:

    This is another example of school districts spending time and money on things other than teaching out kids. First of all, this is not needed. The kids who are hungry get two meals each day for free, their parents get $600 per month in food stamps and they get free food from the many foodshelves in town now. This type of project gets a lot of feel good support but in the end makes these kids even fatter. Focus on efficient and effective education.

    1. sk8erma 88 says:

      The food shelves are not costing the schools or district money – all the donations are coming from our amazing, students, community and faith partners. How much do you spend a month on food – if a family is getting $600 in food stamps, they have a large family and I am sure the cost to feed their large family is more than $600. Food Stamps can’t purchase other basic needs like Toilet Paper, tampons, diapers, deodorant, etc – which I think are very necessary to have. We also have many families living paycheck to paycheck because of the downturn in the economy and when the school can provide a little food for the evenings and non school days, along with providing some of the basic needs so they can use that extra money to make rent that month – this is a blessing. I can’t even waste my time addressing your ignorant comment about kids getting fat from the amazing community support our students and families are receiving and the great work our staff are doing. THANK YOU to those who are advocating for our families and students while they are experiencing poverty and homelessness.

    2. A says:

      I am not sure that you know that of which you speak. Most people do NOT get 600 dollars worth of food stamps. My family gets no where near that, and we are poor. Hunger goes hand in hand with lack of education, or being able to learn. Next time, educate yourself before you blatantly speak up. With all due respect, of course.

      1. Linda G says:

        Ecellent reply. Charity is the pure love of God.

    3. make a difference says:

      Wow! Ignorance at its best. You obviously did not do your research before posting this rude comment ipmutt. You may want to make sure you have the facts next time before posting something that is so untrue. It is people like you that give schools a bad name, not what the schools are doing.

  3. Ally James says:

    There is another example of ignorance and no compassion. First of all it is run by volunteers and not money from the district. They may get a meal a day at school yes, but does that mean they shouldn’t have the third or snacks? The shelf is not only food my friend, it is way more than that! It is love, safety, compassion, security, just to name a few. Most people that help with these type of projects all ready Feel Good that is why they are doing it! This has nothing to do with “fat” kids, if you were to see them, maybe your judgement would change. To focus on efficient and effective education you need basic needs to feed the mind and sole. Our teachers have that, but a homeless student rarely does. I hope you reconsider your thougths.

  4. Linda G says:

    Wonderful, compassionate, following the footsteps of our God–inasmuch as you do it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto Me. Food is a need. I salute you wonderful people for helping families. Maybe the ignorant ones have hearts of stone, and no souls.

  5. healthy recipes for dinner says:

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