Having a problem getting your budget to stretch each month? Or is one of your New Year's resolutions to save more money?
One solution is a little known program available to everyone, regardless of income or family size.
"Fare For All" is a Ramsey County Community Action food distribution program available throughout Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northwest Iowa and eastern North and South Dakotas.
The non-profit group buys food in bulk and then sells it at a low cost to people throughout its distribution area, enabling individuals to buy food they would buy at a grocery store at a cheaper price. The program's only condition is that people who use the program perform two hours of community service a month. But director Tom Wehler said most people already perform more than that anyhow.
The program was founded in March of 1986 and has distribution centers in Brainerd, Crosby and Garrison the third Saturday of each month.
"The idea was they saw a need for food and the best way to get food to the people is to buy in bulk," said Wehler, who negotiates prices with food vendors in order to get the best quality foods at a lower cost. "If you eat, you qualify. It's a program for people helping themselves and helping each other."
Food packages vary in price, size and items, but for example, last month's family package included 28 pounds of food for $15, including beef steak strips, chicken patties, salami, chicken breasts, frozen waffles, apples, potatoes, carrots, tangerines, popcorn, oranges, celery, red bell peppers, grapefruit, chicken and rice bowls and a mango. Wehler said to buy these same products in the stores would cost at least double that price.
"Everything you see in a grocery store is what we get," said Wehler.
The program offers five different food packages that can be purchased each month. Participants can order as many food packages as they would like. The largest, or family package, includes about 16 different items and is typically about $15. A meat only package is $8 with five meat items; a light pack for people who don't eat a lot of meat and want fruit and vegetables is $12; a mega meat package with 10-14 pounds of various meats is $15; and a mixed package for people who like a variety each month is $15-$16. Last month's mixed package was a turkey with all the trimmings, said Wehler. One month it was pizzas or sometimes they include No Name Steaks brand steaks.
The program accepts EBS and food stamps. It doesn't offer bread, milk or eggs because of the difficulty in shipping these products.
"Fare For All" has distribution centers at 180 sites and serves about 7,000 to 8,000 individuals and families, said Wehler. The program could handle as many as 30,000 customers.
For more information and to sign up in advance for the January pick-up, call Food For All at 1-800-582-4291. Host sites are open the third Saturday of each month from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Cuyuna Range Center in Crosby; from 9 to 10 a.m. at the North Star Apartments, Second Floor, in Brainerd; and from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Garrison VFW.
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