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Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

Published August 12, 2015        by Matt

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How to Help Your Local Food Shelf
Image by a-culinary-photo-journal on Flickr

CAER Food Shelf - Fighting Hunger in Minnesota

Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

Community Aid Elk River (CAER) is a community based, Christian, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide emergency food, clothing, furniture/household items, special assistance, and limited financial assistance to Sherburne County MN families and individuals in need.

In 1979, CAER was founded by the local ministerial association. Churches, schools, youth groups, civic organizations and businesses have joined hands in a wonderful community effort to help those in need.

Even if you don't live in Minnesota, this post still has a wealth of information regarding ways that you can help your own local food shelf in their mission to serve your community.

I hope that this post inspires all of us to help those neighbors that are going hungry in each of our communities... they could be neighbors, families your children are friends with, and fellow church-goers. Hunger does not discriminate in this economy. Like ALL food shelves around the country, CAER is experiencing an unprecedented number of people in need due to the economic downturn. The faces of hunger are you and me... many of us are just one illness, injury or job loss away from needing assistance. There is no better time to lend a helping hand to your neighbors!

What is CAER?

Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

CAER is a non-profit, community-based Christian organization, whose mission is to provide emergency food, clothing, and special assistance to individuals and families in need. You can see in the above photograph, the CAER facility located at 19279 Watson Street in Elk River, Minnesota.


Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

When I say urgent, I mean that the food shelf is either out of these items or will be out within a day or two. Without your donations, these items will not be part of the food and hygiene packages handed out to those that visit CAER.

  • Instant Rice
  • Soups
  • Saltine Crackers
  • Ketchup
  • Jello Gelatin
  • Coffee
  • Instant Pudding
  • Laundry Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Paper Towels
  • Kleenex
  • Laundry Soap
  • Tampons/Pads

These items can be used at any food shelf across the country! So when you are doing your grocery shopping this week, pick up an extra roll of paper towels or box of tampons and drop them off at your local food distribution center.

Hunger Facts in Minnesota and America

Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

*According to the MN Emergency Food Shelf Network, 11% of the children served by Minnesota food shelves are forced to skip a meal because there is not enough food at home and 43% of their parents skip meals too!!

*The number of people being served by the food shelves in Minnesota has risen an astounding 45% in the past four years.

*According to Second Harvest Heartland Surveys, children are going hungry right here in Minnesota.

*An estimated 1 in 10 children in Minnesota lives in poverty and 1 in 3 qualifies for free and reduced lunches, based on low income guidelines.

*Last year, 2nd Harvest Food Bank distributed over 31 million pounds of food to their network of food shelves. It was a record year and even that level of food distribution was not enough.

*50% of the households that benefit from local food shelves have at least one child under the age of 18.

*In 2007, there were more than 1.8 million visitors to local food shelves.

*The fastest group of food shelf clients are the working poor... 47% of those surveyed reported that paid employment is their major source of income.

*Over 1 in 10 seniors in the United States live in poverty.

Photo Credit: howbourgeois on Flickr

Online Hunger Resources

  • Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank
    The food bank solicits from manufacturers and producers, warehouses and distributes more than 41 million pounds of food this year to its 1,000+ including our very own CAER Food Shelf.
  • Hunger Solutions Minnesota
    Hunger Solutions Minnesota is a comprehensive hunger relief organization that works to end hunger in Minnesota. We take action to assure food security for all Minnesotans by supporting agencies that provide food to those in need.
  • MN Hunger Partners
    Provides emergency food website links for users.
  • Emergency Food Shelf
    Minnesota's free food bank... The mission of the Emergency Food Shelf Network is to provide high quality food and essential support services to hunger relief programs in the community.

The Faces of Hunger in Minnesota

This touching video conveys the stories of 3 local families who use food shelves in Minnesota. No matter how many times I see this video, it brings a tear to my eye. It just isn't right that people go to bed hungry in America (or anywhere for that matter)!

Live in Sherburne County MN and Need Help?

Eligibility Requirements and Information

If you live in and around Elk River, Minnesota (residents in Sherburne and bordering Wright and Anoka counties if in Elk River school district 728) and are in need of emergency assistance including food, clothing, household items and limited financial assistance, PLEASE do not hesitate to contact CAER via phone, the website, or by stopping in at the food distribution center.


CAER Food Shelf

19279 Watson Street NW

Elk River, MN 55330


Fax: 763-441-1377


M - W - F: 10 AM - 3 PM

M & Th evening: 6 - 8 PM


NOTE that ineligible persons will be referred to the appropriate food shelf or other agencies in their service area. There are food shelves in both Big Lake and Becker that serve many citizens in Sherburne county as well.

All households must be interviewed and complete an application with CAER staff in order to receive any services offered by CAER, including clothing and household. You will be required to have an address verification: a current bill or other mailing with your name, address and it must be dated within 30 days from the day you fill out the application.

CAER serves all persons regardless of age, creed, national origin, religious affiliations, gender, sexual preference, marital status, or disability.

Good Books about Ending Hunger

Community Aid Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf

#1) Financial Donation

Financial donations are THE most effective way to donate to CAER because they can purchase food directly from the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank at DEEP discounts. For example, they can buy a gallon of milk for just $0.85, spaghetti sauce for $0.36 a jar, a dozen eggs for $0.28, and canned corn for just $0.13.

Financial donations also offer CAER flexibility in buying items that are most needed at any given time. In addition, cash can assist with purchasing urgently needed items, buying items that the second harvest food bank does not offer, covering overhead and staffing costs, and providing limited financial assistance for gas/rent/etc. to clients.

All cash donations are tax deductible in the U.S. as CAER is currently registered as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization with the IRS. Click here to go to the CAER website and donate with a personal check or online through Paypal with a credit card or bank transfer.

#2) Food Donations

How you can help your local food shelf

CAER accepts all non-perishable food items in unopened containers. The great thing about direct food donations is that they are available for immediate distribution to CAER clients. They are always running short on the following items: Jello Gelatin, Pudding, French-style Green Beans and other canned vegetables, Regular & Instant Rice, Saltine Crackers, Coffee and Juice.

In addition to the above list, the following items are a great donation choice for any food shelf:

  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Noodles/Pasta
  • Tomato Sauce/Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Fruits
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Hamburger/Tuna Helper
  • Beef Stew/Chili
  • Tuna
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Dried Peas/Beans
  • Pancake Mix/Syrup
  • Cereal
    How you can help your local food shelf

#3) Non-Food/Personal Item Donations

CAER is ALWAYS in need of non-food items and personal hygiene products such as paper towels, toilet paper, feminine products, laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, deodorant, Kleenex, etc.

CAER usually cannot purchase these items at deep discounts through Second Harvest so they depend solely on donations for distribution to clients.

Some other hygiene product donation ideas include razors, shaving cream, napkins, toothpaste, and bar soap.

#4) Volunteer at CAER

Volunteers are truly the backbone of CAER. They are always in need of volunteers to assist with food distribution, with the sorting and organization of donations such as food, and with other special projects throughout the year. During food drives such as the postal services stamp out hunger and the March campaign, CAER's volunteer needs increase dramatically.

How you can help your local food shelf

Volunteers make all the difference to our neighbors in need! If you are interested in volunteering, please contact CAER at (763) 441-1020 during normal food distribution hours. Please consider what type of work you'd prefer, what days of the week and what hours so that the volunteer coordinator can make the best match to CAER's needs.

And for those of you that can't volunteer in Elk River, consider volunteering at your local homeless shelter or food shelf. It seems that most non-profits have a volunteer shortage so if you have some free time, use it to make a difference in someone's life!

#5) Donate Garden Produce

How you can help your local food shelf

Don't let your extras go to waste! Consider donating your excess fresh produce to the food shelf for distribution to the needy in your community. CAER (and most food shelves) recommend dropping produce donations early in the week so they can get it distributed before it deteriorates or spoils.

As you are planning and planting your gardens and crops this year, please consider "planting a row for CAER"! Last year many people donated their fresh organic fruit and vegetables to the CAER Food Shelf and they are hoping for that response again this year. The families that come to the food shelf in need of help with food are very grateful to receive fresh, wholesome, produce that is home grown by their own neighbors who care.

Whether you plant an extra plant, an extra row, or donate your surplus, your donations are a precious commodity to many adults and children who must rely on their local food shelf for help in putting food on the table.

Photo Credit: uelis on Flickr

#6) Hold A Food Drive

How you can help your local food shelf

Another great way to get involved in the fight against hunger is to organize a food drive. This is particularly effective if you belong to a group where you can get a majority of the members to participate. When deciding on what type of food drive to hold, be sure to consider the make-up of your group, its size, and the interests of your members. They will likely be more proactive if you are collecting something that is of interest to them.

Here are several food drive ideas that have worked for others in the past:

  1. Food Day (great for schools and work places) - Choose a day for your food drive and then a fun alliterative food for the workers or kids to bring on that day. For instance, Macaroni Monday, Tuna Tuesday, Whole Grain Wednesday, Tampon Thursday, Fruity Friday or whatever you can come up with.
  2. Kids for Kids Food Drive - Ask kids to bring their favorite snack food in to donate to other kids in need. You can even put together kids snack baskets with the items collected.
  3. Fill A Bag Food Drive - Hand out bags from local grocery stores and ask the group members like church goers to bring the bag back filled up with groceries.
  4. Meat The Need Food Drive - Ask people to bring in canned meats.

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