Originally published at: http://salvationarmynorth.org/2015/01/revamped-minneapolis-food-shelf-now-serves-twice-as-many/

When your calling is to serve, you want to be able to do just that. But far too often, people working in food shelves see good produce and other perishables go to waste.

“We want fresh food to go to families, not into the trash,” said Patti Estep (pictured), lead social worker at the E. Lake St. Salvation Army in Minneapolis.

Now, thanks to a generous grant from the organization Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, the facility was able to purchase a new, commercial refrigerator and freezer for its food shelf, doubling its capacity for perishable items like lettuce, eggs, milk and beef.

“It was totally a God thing – the very next day (after we got the fridge and freezer) we got a call from a food bank saying they had a truck full of venison, could we use it?” Estep recalled. “The fridge and freezer had just enough time to get cold enough and we had meat for our families.”

In addition to receiving those kinds of donations, the extra space means the food shelf can buy larger amounts of meat when the prices are right.

“For the first time, I can place a large order for chicken when it goes on sale, and I can take big produce donations knowing they won’t go bad before we can give it away,” Estep continued.

The food shelf is also enjoying additional improvements: A recent remodel has allowed people to shop for their own food, instead of waiting for a volunteer to fill a bag for them.

“It’s nice, it’s very easy and convenient,” said Ronald, a 54-year-old food shelf visitor. He said being able to come for fresh food, as well as canned staples, helps him make ends meet. “I’d recommend it to anyone who needs help.”

Many others agree. In the past year, this particular Salvation Army food shelf has doubled the number of households it serves to nearly 250 every month.

“We know that this is why we’re here,” said Captain Kelli Trejo, who led the remodel and expansion of the food program with her husband, Captain Jesus Trejo. “Our mission is to be able to serve the people in this community and this new space is really allowing us to grow.”

Along with financial gifts and non-perishable food, The Salvation Army always needs donations of personal hygiene items, including laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo and toilet paper.  Volunteers who can regularly donate their time in the food shelves are also needed.