Need on the rise at food shelves and shelters

The Twin Cities Salvation Army has seen a 130 percent increase in Christmas Assistance requests compared to last year.

AP Reporter

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) âÄî Minnesota food pantries, homeless shelters and other assistance programs report an increase in need for services even as the nation’s economy shows signs of improving. The Twin Cities Salvation Army has seen a 130 percent increase in Christmas Assistance requests compared to last year, an official told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The charity had expected a 30 percent jump. “We expected an increase … but this is staggering,” said Maj. Darryl Leedom, commander of the Twin Cities Salvation Army. At Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, food pantry visits increased 77 percent in September and October. The group’s Dorothy Day Center has regularly been sheltering 240 people a night, near capacity, and spokeswoman Becky Lentz said center staff worry about having to turn people away as it gets colder. Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide hunger-relief organization, said Minnesota’s 300 food pantries have seen an average 26 percent increase in visits compared to the same time last year. In the Twin Cities, visits are up by 43 percent. Cathy Maes, director of the Intercongregation Communities Association food pantry in Minnetonka, said she expanded the hours to be open this Friday because of the growing number of people requesting help. “It’s been busier than we ever thought it would be,” Maes said. “We’re here to tell you that, boy, it’s hitting people you wouldn’t expect.” The U.S. economy grew at a 2.8 percent rate in the third quarter of 2009, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, technically ending the recession after four straight quarters of decline. But those who bore the brunt of the downturn will likely take longer to bounce back. “We’re going to feel it long after it’s over,” Lentz said.