La Crescent’s Food Share Program has a new management structure and will soon have a new home.
The program has a new board and is under the umbrella of the La Crescent Area Healthy Community Partnership (HCP) as a non-profit. At Monday’s city council meeting, the council unanimously approved allowing HCP, and the Food Share Program, to move into the property at 333 Main St. as soon as possible.
The property was purchased by the city as a possible site for a new municipal building in the future but the council agreed that would make a good temporary home for HCP. The house is currently occupied but is expected to be vacated by June at the latest.
The Food Share Program has been housed at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and has been steadily growing. In 2001, the program served a monthly average of 30 families but last year the program served a monthly average of around 75 families in 2017, according to program supporters.
When the community food shelf first surfaced in the ’70’s it consisted of one La Crescent couple who collected and distributed food from their own home, before it was shortly thereafter relocated to a shed belonging to the city’s Water Department. That arrangement lasted briefly before it proved to be too difficult of a space to operate from, and in the ’80s the program moved to Prince of Peace, where it remained for more than 30 years.
The changeover of the Food Share Program began when Susan Oddsen took over as the program’s volunteer coordinator after Karin Wiese retired this fall. Prince of Peace Pastor Mike Woods then began reaching out to find organizations or individuals that could help support or potentially house the food shelf. Woods first contacted La Crescent-Hokah Board of Education’s Community Education Director Beth Theede, as well as Sandy Graves, HCP Board Member and Program Coordinator of Neighbors in Action.
Graves, who worked in the Community Education department as the Youth Program Coordinator when HCP was first formed, said the decision for HCP to get involved with the Food Share Program was an easy one. The non-profit umbrella organization has worked to bolster small community organizations since the early 2000s.
“It was a few of us that started doing the work just as arms from our existing jobs,” Graves said of HCP’s early days. “We were just trying to get at where the needs in the community were, and what we could do to address them. And now we’ve kind of grown into this organization that supports and adopts the programs that could really benefit from having a formal structure.”
The initial outreach by Woods resulted in the Community Education and HCP staff collaborating to consider future space, model and status the program could pursue. To attain the non-profit status is a difficult task in itself, Theede said, which HCP is already in the process of doing.
Theede said that Woods’ decision to reach out to the community was centered around the potential for the program to reach more people in the community, and because the Food Share Program was beginning to be known more around the community as the Prince of Peace’s food shelf.
“They didn’t have enough organizational structure, nor did they have a 501©(3),” said Theede, who credited Prince of Peace for preserving a community program that was basically left at their doorstep one day. “The church is organized under the church, but the food shelf is not one of those components — and plus, it’s not just the food shelf, but the La Crescent Food Share Program, and nobody really knew that.”