As winter approaches, more often than not we begin to see an increase in use at the food shelf. In part, all of those individuals who work seasonal jobs are done, so the demand starts to increase at the food shelf. Holidays are particularly a difficult time for many. We don't always get what would be considered "holiday meal" food donated. If we do get items such as ham or turkeys, we try to make a complete meal for our participants.

Many of our participants are low income and/or receive Social Security. Their benefits simply will not cover everything. Most often they pay bills first, buying food comes last, if at all. Also, employment in the Brainerd area is very seasonal, so paychecks are done within months. Often times we see participants in a short term situation, such as employment hours being cut back or one family member loses their job, so they find themselves using the food shelf to fill in the cap. Unfortunately, Brainerd has their share of homeless that needs the food shelf to survive. Sometimes they have friends or a family member that will let them cook but are unable to assist them with shelter, so there may be an opportunity to have a hot meal once in a while. It's unbelievable how diet affects the health of everyone. In Minnesota 60 percent of deaths are diet-related illnesses including stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. We see about two of every three people who are low-income Minnesotans become obese due to poor diets.

The local food shelves have a greater impact on the community than most may think. Homelessness is high in our community; they rely on the food shelf to sustain them. This fits into the low-income situation. We often see participants end up on the street or living in a vehicle after losing their homes due to no longer having employment. We tend to think of an individual being homeless, when in reality families end up in the same situation. The definition of homeless includes those that "couch hop" or stay temporarily with friends or family, live in vehicles and the street.

Since we live in a cold weather state, growing time is short. Food shelves make use of local gardeners and farmers to help supply fresh fruits and vegetables. We rely on local grocers to donate what they can. We encourage participants to utilize the option of fresh produce. If they don't know how to prepare certain items, someone is always gracious enough to explain the most simple, best tasting way of preparation. We also offer recipes in our lobby for those interested in including produce in a full meal. Often times we will put the recipe right in the produce container for ease of use.

The Salvation Army food shelf serves about 400-plus households in a month, and about 1,100 individuals. We serve four days per week. We also give out about 20 to 25 brown bags (overnight bags) in a month. Brown bags are usually given to those who are homeless. We also offer hygiene products. Crow Wing County has six other food shelves that average 487 families total.

The food shelf appreciates all the donations that we receive from grocery stores and private individuals. However, financial donations give us the option to purchase food at a fraction of what we could purchase anywhere else. Either way it's very much a blessing and helps to feed those in need.

The Salvation Army has about 15 to 17 volunteers. It takes about six volunteers each day. Some of our volunteers are here three days per week. Bless all of the volunteers; without them there would be no food shelf, they truly are the backbone and what makes the whole process work. They do everything from sorting, and stocking shelves to assisting participants through the food shelf.

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Linda Loftis is the Food Shelf Coordinator for Brainerd Area food Shelf at the Brainerd Salvation Army. She is a member of the Food Shelf Coalition, a task group of Crow Wing Energized.


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  • Brown or wild rice
  • Quinoa or Couscous
  • Wheat berries, amaranth, teff
  • Steel cut or rolled oats
  • Whole wheat or brown rice pastas
  • Whole grain cereals



  • Canned cold-water fish: sardines, tuna, wild salmon
  • Canned beans & legumes: black beans, garbanzo beans, aduki beans, kidney beans, lentils
  • Nuts & seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews
  • Nut butters: (natural and non-hydrogenated) almond, peanut, macadamia, or tahini butter



  • Canned fruit & vegetables (low sodium, packed in water not syrup)
  • Dried fruits, preferably with no added sugar
  • Canned soups (low sodium)
  • Fresh produce



  • Green & white tea
  • Herbs & spices: oregano, basil, black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, dill
  • Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil


Food shelves can stretch cash (or checks) further than donations of food because of their access to discount products and programs. For every $1 you donate, the food shelf provides five meals to those in need.



Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army Food Shelf

208 South Fifth St., Brainerd


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Cuyuna Range Food Shelf

302 Cross Ave., Crosby


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Crosslake Emergency Food Shelf

34212 County Road 3, Crosslake


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Emily Area Food Shelf

20948 County Road 1, Emily


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Garrison Area Care Givers Food Shelf

9535/41 Madison St., Garrison


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Lakes Area Food Shelf

29280 State Highway 371, Pequot Lakes


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Second Harvest Food Bank

2222 Cromell Dr, Grand Rapids

218-326-4420 ext. 11