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Northside CAC Food Shelf earns statewide community education award

By PAMELA THOMPSON moc.nmosgpa@nospmoht.alemap, Northfield News

Dec 5, 2022 Updated Dec 7, 2022

The Minnesota Association of Community Education recently recognized the new satellite food shelf operated by the Northfield Community Action Center that is located at the Northfield Community Education Center, NCEC, with a statewide project award.

Opened in September 2021, the NCEC Food Shelf has distributed more than 63,000 pounds of food to families living in more than 350 different households, over the course of 2,000 visits, said Michael Pursell, food access program director at CAC in Northfield.

“It’s great to be recognized,” said Pursell. “A lot of people worked hard to create the new food access for families living on the northside of Northfield.”

Erin Bailey, director of Community Education at Northfield Schools, nominated the CAC’s satellite food shelf for the award. Bob Lawrence, a board member of the Minnesota Association of Community Education, MNACE, was at last week’s Northfield School Board meeting to present the award. Anika Rychner, senior director at CAC, also attended the award presentation.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for a project involving such a unique collaborative effort,” said Rychner.

Rychner said she credits the partnership with Carleton College.

The annual award also recognized the many partnerships involved in the NCEC Food Shelf, including the many student volunteers from Carleton College who help stock and distribute food at the food shelf. Erica Sweifel, assistant director of Community Impact for Community and Civic Engagement at Carleton College, was also on hand to accept the award.

Sweifel heads up the food rescue program at Carleton that was started in 2018 to recover unused food from the college cafeteria for distribution in the community. Today, Carleton’s food rescue program has expanded to include a team of student volunteers who drive college vans three days a week to pick up unused food from area retailers Cub Foods, Target, Aldi and Quiktrip. That food is then sorted and displayed on shelves at the food shelf.

“This rescue service saves about about 8,000 pounds of food a week that would otherwise be going to the landfill,” said Rychner.

Pursell estimates that about a dozen community members and Carleton students volunteer at the CAC NCEC food shelf each week. All Carleton students, who greet shoppers at the northside food shelf located in the old teacher’s lounge at NCEC, are bilingual in English and Spanish.

“I love what Dr. Hillmann said when he talked about how special a project like this is when community-based systems can come together to do amazing things,” she said.

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