Currently located at the Care and Share, stakeholders agree that it would benefit from a move to its own location, and a suitable, affordable building space has emerged.

Recognizing that the demand for an adequately supplied and strategically located food shelf in Crookston might be as high as ever right now and in the coming weeks and months, the CHEDA Board of Directors has authorized CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth to spend $6,000, enough to move the fledgling New Hope Food Shelf, which recently opened in a space at the Care and Share homeless shelter, to a more convenient location and pay its monthly rent for a year.

A building space in the community has been identified that would work nicely for the food shelf, Hoiseth said, and the monthly rent, including utilities, is $475.

It gets a little dicey, legally speaking, when taxpayer-funded government entities want to simply give money away for various initiatives. For instance, the City of Crookston, Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner noted, is prohibited from giving money to the food shelf.

But there is more wiggle room for an entity like CHEDA, Hoiseth said, if the funding source comes from revenue derived from rent paid by various business and agency tenants at Valley Technology Park, where CHEDA is the landlord. Since VTP’s rental and business incubation mission was modified several years ago, the VTP budget has gone from a deficit situation to having a comfortable reserve balance, and getting some or all of the $6,000 to cover one year of the food shelf’s rent at its new location would be the initial strategy, Hoiseth explained.

Crookston was without a food shelf for a while after North Country Food Bank bought a building in East Grand Forks and last fall moved its headquarters there. Concerned about the void left by the heavily used food shelf that went away with NCFB’s departure, newly hired Care and Share kitchen staff member Rachel Laferriere spearheaded an effort to house a food shelf at the shelter, and New Hope Food Shelf was soon born.

But in order for it to better handle the demand, be more convenient for those who need it and also be more ideally located for volunteers, Hoiseth said the Care and Share is not seen as the long-term home for the new food shelf.

“The food shelf’s impact is becoming pretty dramatic in Crookston, and other food shelves in the region are being further taxed by people here driving to those locations,” Hoiseth said. “There is a great need in Crookston for a food shelf.”

“I think there is a need for this, big time,” echoed Mayor Dale Stainbrook.

Laferriere either has or is pursuing grant funds that help with various food shelf operational costs, but those funds don’t cover costs related to its location, Hoiseth added.

Act now
While there was talk among some CHEDA Board members about further discussing the matter at a subsequent meeting or looking at modified funding options, the board’s overall sentiment soon shifted to the urgency of the need for a stable, functioning food shelf in the community.

“Pay the rent tomorrow,” board member Craig Morgan said. “We talk about waiting until the next meeting, but this is a humanitarian thing that needs to get done. …The main thing for me is we walk out (of the CHEDA Board meeting) knowing we’re going to do this.”

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” CHEDA Board member and city council member Steve Erickson said. “…If we don’t try to get this rolling…the community needs it. Look at the needs of families and children; we need this.”

Although board member and council member Tom Vedbraaten expressed support of the plan to pay the food shelf’s rent for a year, he stressed his desire against paying the rent for longer than that. Board members agreed with committing to only one year and keeping an eye on how the food shelf is doing in the coming months and revisiting the matter a year from now.

Hoiseth noted that the United Way of Crookston was a big supporter of NCFB, and is looking to help support New Hope Food Shelf as well.