Photos: Princeton, Minn. food shelf sustains, relies on community

Social Issues Julie Siple · ·

1 A bag of food from an anonymous donor hangs on the door of the Princeton Pantry in Princeton, Minn., on Nov. 14, 2012. Community members regularly drop by with food or cash offerings, often without leaving their names. Because the food shelf is only open three days a week, people also leave donations at a local auto store. 
2 Shannon Huisman, 45, is one of more than 25 volunteers at the Princeton Pantry. She also occasionally uses the food shelf and offers her time as a way to give back to the community. "I'm not able to give back financially right now," Husiman said. "To see people with the groceries they need means a lot to me." 
3 "I'll be here until the day I die, I'm sure," said Joyce Neumann, part-time coordinator of the Princeton Pantry. "I really enjoy it." In her seven years as coordinator, Neumann has seen the number of people visiting the food shelf rise to record levels. 
4 Bob Windschitl unloads potatoes at the back door of the Princeton Pantry on Nov. 14, 2012. Windschitl drives a truck for Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in Grand Rapids, which delivers about once a month to the food shelf. On this day, the truck dropped off 9,000 pounds of food, which cost the Princeton Pantry $4,535.87. 
5 Carol (left) and Craig Nutt fill the empty shelves of the Princeton Pantry with fresh produce donated by the local Coborn's grocery store. Every Wednesday, the Nutts pack their minivan full of Coborn's food that is nearing its sell-by date. Coborn's recently expanded its donation program, and the Princeton store has given nearly 47,000 pounds of food this year. 
6 Princeton Pantry clients "don't want to just give up the holiday," pantry coordinator Joyce Neumann said. "We do what we can to help." The food shelf has 145 turkeys on order for Thanksgiving and, with the help of local Girl Scouts, will pack holiday meals for food shelf clients. Unable to help everyone, Neumann went through her files and picked the most needy. "Yeah, that's the hard part," she said. 
7 Volunteers Jaime Lind (left) and Judy Rubin discuss what to put in bags for food shelf clients on Nov. 14, 2012. In addition to standard items, families often get cake mixes and frosting when they have a birthday in the family. When those items appear in donation bags, food shelf coordinator Joyce Neumann saves them in her office "for the birthday kids." 
8 Cathy Morrissey (right) arrives at the Princeton Pantry with eggs to donate. "This place has been so good to my family," said Morrissey, a wife and mother of two. Morrissey has a serious medical condition. She and her family lost their house in Andover after bills began to mount and now rent a place in Princeton. After depositing the eggs inside, she got in line to use the food shelf. 
9 During her first visit to the Princeton Pantry, Diane Douglas (top) meets with food shelf coordinator Joyce Neumann. A certified nutritionist, Douglas lost her job after taking a medical leave of absence. "I have nothing coming in," Douglas said. "I have no money except savings, which is dwindling very quickly." Douglas' adult daughter and two grandchildren live with her. "When my life gets back in order, I will definitely find time to come back and volunteer," she said. 
10 Johnny Burns (left), 65, and David West, 65, talk about the Vietnam War while they wait for their turn in the crowded Princeton Pantry on Nov. 14, 2012. 
11 Volunteers Judy Rubin (left) and Jaime Lind pack bags of food for clients on Nov. 14, 2012, the food shelf's busiest day ever. "I always try to sneak some extra stuff into the boxes for the kids," Rubin said. "Or when there are old people getting the food." 
12 A "free shelf" is located in the Princeton Pantry lobby. It's accessible to anyone who wants to stop in. Some clients leave donations, like children's toys or infant bedding. Others find specialty items to go along with the food staples they receive from the pantry. 
13 Volunteer Shannon Huisman (right) helps Princeton Pantry client Alyssa Bohlman transport boxes of food to her car on Nov. 14, 2012. Bohlman's son Cody, 3, carries a loaf of French bread. "That's one of the best things, the fresh bread," said Bohlman. "My family goes through a ton of bread. This place really helps us." 
14 A Princeton man wishing to remain anonymous stopped by the food shelf on November 14, 2012, with a $100 donation. People often give bags of food, and sometimes food shelf coordinator Joyce Neumann finds cash hidden at the bottom.