Feed-A-Family will provide holiday meals for close to 900 families this year

Published 7:26 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HyVee was busy Monday.

Just four days before Christmas, shoppers were hurriedly filling carts with everything needed for a holiday feast.

More than 500 families, who are unable to buy their own meal this year, also picked up groceries yesterday — courtesy of the community.

The Feed-A-Family program will actually provide meals for close to 900 families this year, HyVee manager Todd Hepler said.

The program provides a bag full of holiday groceries — including ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, bread, butter and vegetables — to those in need. Feed-A-Family is in its third year and is a collaboration of KAUS Radio, HyVee, The Salvation Army, Sara Lee, Mrs. Gerry’s and the Mower County Dairy Association.

HyVee and vendors provided the food for the dinner at their cost, with the help of customer donations.

“It is the season of giving, and here at HyVee, we are surrounded by food all of the time. We want others, who do not have the same opportunities, to wake up on Christmas morning knowing they can have a Christmas dinner,” Hepler said.

Families in need were able to apply to recieve the groceries through the Salvation Army. Case worker Lori Blanton said they received 660 applications this year, as opposed to 611 last year.

The Christmas basket program used to be organized solely through the Salvation Army.

“Five to 10 years ago, we consistently served about 350 families at Christmas. We thought that was high,” she said.

“It is a huge blessing to have these organizations take the lead on this, but we are hoping that at some point we’ll see a stability in requests and that the numbers can then go down,” Blanton said.

Having business leaders lend a hand to the Salvation Army’s program was originally the idea of Renee Wangen of KAUS Radio.

“I think it is really important, and fun, to get out here and help,” said Wangen, who continues to organize Feed-A-Family.

Close to three dozen volunteers, among them Austin High School’s honor society, helped distribute groceries Monday.

Eligibility for the meal was based on income as well as other emergency circumstances. Feed-A-Family was able to provide groceries for all 660 applicants.

HyVee cashiers have been asking for $10 donations at the check-out lanes since November. Each donation purchased a bag of groceries valued at more than $30.

Extra resources will provide dinners for families who are in need but did not file an application at the Salvation Army. The rest will stock the food shelf, Hepler said.

“Anyone who tells us that they need help, we will try to take care of them,” Hepler said.

As of Monday afternoon, the store had raised about $1,500 more than their goal. Sixth-grade students at Ellis Middle School donated $400 to the program, making Monday’s totals alone more than $800. HyVee continues to accept donations through Christmas Eve.

“The best part is that the project does not end after today is over, or after everyone leaves with their grocery bag,” said John Wright of Kaus, who volunteered Monday. “The community has given so much that their impact is going to continue through more of the season.”