50,000 food boxes: Salvation Army location in St. Paul reaches milestone

Feb 26, 2021

The West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul has reached a major milestone: 50,000 boxes of food given to the local community since the pandemic began. 

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, this location distributed about 7,500 boxes of food per year. That’s an increase of nearly 700 percent, underscoring The Salvation Army’s need to collect 2 million pounds of food in March. 

“The increase in need has been huge and drastic,” said Don LaMar, who helps lead the West 7th Salvation Army.

LaMar attributes the increased demand to the high number of service industry workers who live nearby. The local neighborhood includes many blue-collar workers and young families, most of whom have been hard hit by the pandemic.  

“We’ve served many people who’ve never come here before,” LaMar said. “They’ve thanked us for being here, saying they didn’t know how they were going to get through.”

That includes people like Maryanne (pictured below), a St. Paul resident who is the primary caregiver for her boyfriend, a disabled vet. She is among the thousands of people and families who receive food at the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul every month. 

“Ever since the pandemic started, I’ve never seen so many people come to The Salvation Army for help,” Maryanne said. “People here are losing their jobs. (The pandemic) has taken a toll on everybody.”

It Takes an Army

Distributing 50,000 boxes of food has not been easy for the West 7th Salvation Army, given the logistical and staffing challenges that come with handing out hundreds of food boxes per day.  

“It’s taken an Army of volunteers and donors to pull this off,” LaMar said. “Thankfully, we’ve seen a huge increase in support. People from all walks of life – neighbors, doctors, university administrators, and others – have been helping us.”

That includes volunteer Chris Cairo (pictured below), who recently began helping pack food boxes once or twice per week. He first volunteered for The Salvation Army by helping distribute toys during the 2020 Christmas season. 

“When I saw the look on people’s faces and how grateful they were to have (toys) for their kids, it was just tremendous,” Cairo said. “I thought, ‘How can I keep doing that?’”

Cairo searched online for Salvation Army volunteer opportunities and discovered that the West 7th Salvation Army needed help distributing food. 

“A lot of people need food right now,” Cairo said. “I worked in agriculture for 28 years, so I know how important food assistance is. This volunteer opportunity is the perfect fit for me.”

Get Involved

You can help The Salvation Army raise 2 million pounds of food by donating nonperishables, hosting a food drive, giving a cash donation, or volunteering. 

Donate food: Drop off nonperishable foods at any SPIRE Credit Union, Morrie’s Auto Dealer, Cub grocery store, or Salvation Army Family Store location in the Twin Cities March 1-27.

Host a food drive: Collect nonperishable foods at your organization now through March 27. We can send you a Food Drive Starter Kit that includes promotional materials for you to print off or post on your website and social media. When you’ve finished your collection, bring your food to Salvation Army headquarters in Roseville on Saturday, March 27 for a special contactless, drive-thru weigh-in event. Sign up today at 2MillionPounds.org.

Give a cash donation: Help us feed hungry families by giving online at 2millionpounds.org. Every $150 you give equals about 120 pounds of food.

Volunteer: Got extra time? Help us unload delivery vehicles, weigh food, stock shelves, and more. Sign up to volunteer now

Media coverage

It takes an Army of community support to raise 2 million pounds of food – including help from the Twin Cities media. Below is a small sampling of the many local newspapers and TV stations that are helping The Salvation Army get the word out about the food drive.  

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