Photos: Hunger and help move out to the suburbs

Business ·

1 Mark Weizel, 47, spent time with his grandson Roland Dorr, 5, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, at their home in Excelsior, Minn. Weizel, a maintenance mechanic, moved his family of five into his brother-in-law's one-bedroom home about two years ago when they weren't able to make the rent at their home in Shakopee, Minn. They had anticipated being here only a couple of months, but then Weizel lost his job. Since then, he has struggled to find steady work, taking temporary jobs as they come. The family visits the ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka, but still has trouble getting enough for nutritious meals. They also get help from local churches and from His House and Resource West, local nonprofits. Weizel first sought help last fall, when his grandson was hungry, and Weizel realized the refrigerator contained nothing but one egg and some butter. Transportation is also a significant cost to the family. They have one vehicle and drive 200 miles a day to get Weizel, his wife and their daughter to their jobs all over the suburbs. Weizel says it is hard to be struggling in a community where people have million-dollar homes. 
2 Roland Dorr, 5, plays on the bed where he sleeps with his grandmother on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011 in Excelsior, Minn. The family of five - four adults and Roland - have been sleeping in this room for the past two years. Roland and his grandmother sleep on the bed, while the other three adults use the recliners, sofa and floor. 
3 Gina Katris, 38, helps her daughter Abigayle Bratu, 7, with her homework on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011 at their home in Minnetonka, Minn. Katris is a single mother to five children, ages 7 to 19. The family of six live in a two-bedroom apartment, and Katris works part-time at a local gas station for $8.50 an hour. The family receives food stamps, visits the ICA Food Shelf, and also uses to the non-profit organization His House for help with clothes and shoes for the kids. Without these resources Katris says she does not know how they would make it. Katris has been struggling since she was taken from her mother at age five. She grew up in multiple foster homes and two orphanages. She wants her children to get an education and good jobs, so that they won't struggle like she has. Katris knows people in her area who are struggling for the first time, and she helps them figure out where to go for help. 
4 Doug Cox, Pastor of Worship and Outreach at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minn., sits in the sanctuary of his church on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. Cox has seen the number of people in need increase in his church and his community. He calls it an "invisible need," since people often hide their situation from their peers. In response, his church now offers a free meal once a month. Called the New Friends Community Meal, the program invites people in the congregation and community to gather without distinguishing who is a person of need. Since the program started last spring, the number of attendees has jumped from 20 to around 80. The church worked closely with His House, a non-profit organization that provides donated clothing and job search assistance to those in need, in order to start the program. Cox sees people struggling for many different reasons: foreclosure, job loss, mental or physical health issues, age. He says you see it all in the suburbs. 
5 Jeannine Sweeney, 74, of Excelsior, Minn., volunteered at the ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. The ICA food shelf has seen an 80 percent jump in use since the fall of 2008. The food shelf serves several western suburbs. Of its clients, 32.5 percent come from the well-off suburb of Minnetonka. The food shelf recently opened the new facility in Excelsior to reduce wait times and better serve the need there. It also hired a job counselor to help clients find work. Food shelf director Cathy Maes says unemployment and the cost of housing are the two biggest reasons people need the food shelf. 
6 A townhouse complex in Lakeville, Minn. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. A growing number of people in the suburbs are seeking help to feed themselves and their families. Food shelf visits in the suburban Twin Cities have jumped 89 percent since 2008. Food stamp use is also up. While there has always been need in the suburbs, hunger relief organizations say they're seeing an increase in middle-class families who are seeking help for the first time. 
7 Gary Anger, principal of Red Pine Elementary School in Eagan, Minn., visited a classroom on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. The school serves an economically diverse group of students. Over the past couple of years, Anger has seen a growing number of families facing hardship, including many who have never needed help in the past. The school responded last December by turning a conference room into a food shelf. The project was a logistical challenge, in part because many families in need feared exposure. Parents came after hours to pick up food in privacy, and the school made deliveries to their homes. The school no longer has the food shelf, and instead partners with the Eagan Resource Center, a food shelf in town, to help their families in need. 
8 Lisa McKenney, 51, of Lakeville, Minn., spent time with her two kids Tara, 15, and Weston, 17, on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. McKenney and her family were living a comfortable lifestyle that included family vacations and a 3500-square-foot home with a hot tub on the deck, when they were unexpectedly hit by divorce and job loss a year ago. She and her kids have had to downsize considerably. They now live in a two-bedroom townhouse, have given away their two pets, sold many of their belongings, and visit the food shelf to make ends meet. McKenny receives unemployment and child support. Their rent is $1,300 a month, and McKenney says it is difficult to find anything for less in Lakeville. She initially found it difficult to go to the food shelf, but is grateful for the help and admits that without it her family would just be eating macaroni and cheese. The food shelf helps her serve meals like hamburgers. It also helps stretch the rest of her budget, so that she can remain in Lakeville, keep her kids in their schools, and allow them to participate in sports. She says food and nutrition are important to her because if her kids don't eat well, they won't do well in school. McKenney is hopeful that she will be able to find work soon. 
9 David Adney, principal of Minnetonka High School in Minnetonka, Minn., greeted students in the hallway between classes on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Adney says that people may not expect to find need in a school like his, but it's there. The numbers are not large, but he has seen them grow as families struggle with the current economy. He says some kids do come to school hungry, but will often try to disguise their need. Adney's team of teachers and counselors keep watch for subtle signs of trouble and try to find ways to be supportive. The school has a room full of toiletries and clothing for students of need. It also has a closet full of food for students who don't get enough at home. Most students do not know about these resources, but those in need know where to go. 
10 Sean Anderson, 43, of Eagan, Minn., picked up groceries at the Eagan food shelf on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. Anderson is father to a 12-year-old son, and visits the food shelf in order to make ends meet. He works full time, and has been employed at the same job for about 10 years, but says he does not make enough to cover all expenses. Anderson is a former Marine. He says his first visit to a food shelf was difficult, and he "bawled [his] eyes out." He's grateful for the help, and doesn't go unless he feels he has no other choice, lest he take the food from someone who needs it more than he does. He is looking for a second job, and hopes to give back to the food shelf one day. 
11 Alicia Caskinette, 27, of Apple Valley, visited the Eagan Resource Center with her family on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. The food shelf has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of people visiting since 2010. Some of that increase is likely due to an expansion; the food shelf recently opened a new facility in Lakeville. However, food shelf director Lisa Horn says need is up as well. While there has always been hunger in the area, Horn sees a growing number of people who are middle class and have never before visited a food shelf. Sometimes those people are hesitant to come the first time. They park across the parking lot or call to cancel their appointment. Women come without telling their husbands, and men without telling their wives. Horn says some of these people have found jobs, and have quickly returned to give back, with time or money.