As Individuals Return to Pre-COVID 'Normalcy,' Many MN Businesses Still Struggle (article continued)

Struggling Community Help

And while businesses struggle to return to the normal level of productivity they saw pre-pandemic, so do community services around the area.

Specifically, the newly-relocated Waseca Area Food Shelf said it's seeing an increase in demand.

“This time last year, we were serving about 75 families. Now, we’re serving about 150 families,” Nikki Schaffer said.

Schaffer is the Food Shelf coordinator, and she added a big part of the reason for the increase is inflation and people not being able to keep up with their everyday expenses.

“Prices and inflation have gone up, and benefits haven’t risen to meet that, so people need help,” she said.

While the work is certainly appreciated, it’s becoming harder and harder. Food shelves across the area are still experiencing rising demand, and some say the supply they’re used to pulling from is shrinking. One of those food shelves, Community Pathways out of Owatonna, said its supply has shrunk by nearly a quarter.

“This time last year, we were serving about 250 families a week, and now we’re serving just under 500 a week,” Operations Manager Zach Roberts said. “Most of our food comes from the food bank in Rochester … and their supply has shrunk about 25%. It can be a challenge keeping up with more people needing to fill a gap in their spending.”

As for why this increase in demand is happening, Pathways points to a lack of government help going toward individuals, and the stress of coming out of the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people were riding that edge already, and with prices increasing and the eviction moratorium ending that line just crashed and people see us as a resource,” said Robin Starr, marketing and outreach coordinator for Community Pathways. “We’re happy to be here for them.”

We thank the Waseca County News for reprint permission.

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