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Community United Church of Christ member and project leader Christina Kaiser helps Rose Marie Dahl sign by her name to pick up a free box of commodity food. Submitted photo
Community United Church of Christ member and project leader Christina Kaiser helps Rose Marie Dahl sign by her name to pick up a free box of commodity food. Submitted photo

St. Paul Park church's food program marks a year of helping low-income mothers, seniors

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religion Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

South Washington County is home to a number of food programs and one of them is marking a year helping local residents.

Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park has served as a distribution site for a free food program for low-income elderly residents and young families since early 2011.

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"It's gone really well," Community UCC Pastor Oby Ballinger said. "From our initial list we've built up to anywhere between 20 and 25 people a month."

About a half-dozen regular volunteers show up each month to help with the distribution, Ballinger said. Church member Christina Kaiser has led Community UCC's participation in the food distribution.

Food recipients must apply prior to a distribution day and meet income eligibility requirements. The program is for pregnant mothers and their young children. It is similar to the federal WIC program, but offers food directly instead of vouchers. People over the age of 60 also can use the program if they fall below an income threshold.

Recipients pick up a box of food from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month. Ballinger said the church is flexible and allows people to pick up food at other times if given advance notice.

If the program continues to be successful, it may expand distribution to include an afternoon or evening time during another week of the month.

"We hope this is just the beginning," Ballinger said.

The food boxes are provided by the federal Agriculture Department's Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul manages the local distribution.

If food is not picked up at a distribution day, it can be refrigerated and saved for the next distribution, Ballinger said.

Community United Church of Christ is at 1145 Summit Ave., St. Paul Park. For more information about the food distribution program, call Second Harvest Heartland at (651) 484-8241 of Community UCC at (651) 459-2543.

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