Photos: Hunger in Kanabec County

People & Places Caroline Yang · ·

1 Kevin Altman, 53, of Brook Park, Minn. relaxed in the yard with his four boys -- Dustin, 10, Hunter, 12, Collin, 15 and Tristan, 9 -- on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. One week later, Altman was found dead, according to family members. Altman's mother-in-law, Juanita Helmbrecht, said that Altman committed suicide. Altman was a plumber, but struggled to work after a car accident several years ago. He stayed home to care for his children while his wife, Tina, worked at Minpack, a manufacturing plant in Pine City, Minn. He said she struggled to consistently get enough hours while he received disability payments for the past seven years. The family uses the food shelf four to five times a year when unexpected bills strain their finances. A dedicated father, Altman coached baseball and football and proudly said in an interview that his four boys are A and B students. 
2 Scott Nelson, 51, and his wife Kelly Nelson, 46, of Mora, Minn., were living a middle class lifestyle until the recession hit. Nelson worked as a dry wall contractor until work dried up in 2008. Being self-employed, he could not receive unemployment checks. Kelly works as an accountant, but has only been able to find part-time work. They survived on their credit cards for basic things, but eventually filed for bankruptcy and signed up for food stamps. They have had to sell many of their toys, including a boat and two motorcycles, but the couple has been able to keep their house. Nelson sought help at the Minnesota Workforce Center in Mora and is now in school for computer networking. They say a strong partnership is what has brought them through their tough times. 
3 Scott Nelson, 51, of Mora, MN, worked on a bathroom renovation at his daughter's house on Thursday, August 11, 2011. After Nelson lost his job as a dry wall contractor in 2008, he and his wife Kelly have had to downsize considerably. He is now in school for computer networking and technology. 
4 Dawn Noga, 33, her husband David Noga, 40, and their daughter Asia Noga, 14, of Mora, Minn. were living their dream life until David hurt his back while working construction. Dawn recently lost her job at a state treatment center in Cambridge, and for a period of time was working three jobs to make their $1,700 monthly mortgage payment. They lost their house and sold other things including David's prized Camero. They now live with Noga's mother, and are also fostering a niece and nephew, ages 5 and 6. The family utilizes the food shelf when the bills get to be too much, and David sometimes skips meals to ensure there is enough for the kids to eat. The family is working to start a Filipino catering business, and hope they can give back to the community that helped them. 
5 Dawn Noga prepares breakfast for Tristan Black, 5, her mother Rosemarie Black, Asia Noga, 14 and Kylee Black, 6, in Ogilvie, Minn. on Thursday, August 11, 2011. Although the family has struggled financially and receives food from the community food shelf, Noga makes sure her family eats nutritiously. For breakfast she served whole wheat bagels with butter and jam, and oatmeal with dates, walnuts, raisins, frozen strawberries from the garden, and milk. 
6 Rhonda Vikla, 51, watched her son, Cole Vikla, 13 demonstrate his skills on the pogo stick in Mora, Minn. on Thursday, August 11, 2011. Vikla worked as a teacher's assistant for Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE), but is currently unemployed. Struggling to find a job, she uses food stamps, the food shelf, a free community meal and the energy assistance program to make ends meet. Vikla says the food support she receives enables them to eat nutritiously. While she has been forced to sell some things -- including four horses -- she is relieved her home is paid for. 
7 Rhonda Vikla, 51, shows her folder of job applications waiting to be submitted. Vikla lives six miles outside of downtown Mora, but one major set back she faces is not being able to go into town every day due to high fuel costs. At the moment she can only afford driving to town once a week, and she says that will soon become once a month. Without going into town she is unable to use the computer and access the internet at the Minnesota Workforce Center in Mora. Vikla has heard a new McDonald's will open in Mora this October and hopes to find a job there. 
8 Stephanie Novak, 44, and her son Colton Novak, 10, spend time under their willow tree on Thursday, August 11, 2011 in Mora, Minn. Novak has been unemployed since 1991 as a result of multiple health issues, including systemic lupus and congestive heart failure. She is currently going through a divorce, and has had to use all of her savings for a lawyer. With the income she receives from social security, child support and food stamps, she does not feel she is making it. She and her son use food support services such as the food shelf, soup kitchen and food stamps, yet it is not enough to eat nutritiously. For two weeks a month, they are eating only ramen noodles. Novak admits she does not eat -- sometimes for three to four days --so that her son has enough to eat. She has also stopped taking many of her medications because of the high cost. Vikla does not feel that things will get better, but chooses to focus on her son's upcoming school year and keeping his spirits high. 
9 Colton Novak, 10, enjoys the company of his cat on Thursday, August 11, 2011 in Mora, Minn. Novak will start the fifth grade this fall, and has an interest in photography.