HIBBING (AP) -- More and more unemployed and low-income workers on the Iron Range are turning to food shelves for help, only to find there's less food available for them.
People stood 10 deep inside the Hibbing Area Food Shelf one afternoon last week.
John Yliniemi and his wife, Grace, who live outside Hibbing, were back for a second month. John, 69, retired from LTV Corp. in 1994, but the couple's monthly income hasn't been enough.
"We've got to heat the house and buy pills for medicine, so there's no money left over for anything else," said John Yliniemi, who also faces surgery for prostate cancer. "If you've got nothing to eat, you've got to do something."
Mining layoffs and the closing or downsizing of businesses have cost Iron Range communities thousands of jobs. More than 2,700 jobs have been lost since the January 2001 closing of LTV Steel in Hoyt Lakes. LTV employed 1,400 people when it shuttered. More than 1,000 workers lost their jobs in layoffs at Sykes Enterprises, Fingerhut and Entronix Inc. in Eveleth; Reptron Electronics and Kmart in Hibbing; and Blandin Paper in Grand Rapids.
Moreover, cuts in state and federal aid and a reduction in corporate donations are putting less food on food shelves. In cities such as Hibbing and Virginia, food-shelf directors say they now have less food to give to more people.
To make sure everybody gets fed, some food banks have cut back on how much food they give to families; others have advertised for more help and donations.
"It's as bad as ever," said Carol Voss, director of the Hibbing Area Food Shelf for the past seven years. "We're seeing more and more people in crisis.
"I'm seeing more and more people who come in who are down to the bare minimum and just can't make a go of it anymore. A lot of them are still living on their pride up here, or they are making it with their kids' help. But a lot of the kids are even in the situation where the adults and seniors are."
Earlier this month, Minnesota FoodShare, organized 21 years ago after the collapse of the steel industry on the Iron Range, launched its annual campaign to restock the 320 registered food shelves across the state.
Sue Kainz, the campaign coordinator, said the goal is to generate about 6 million pounds of food, either through donations of canned or boxed goods or by using cash contributions.
"People are sick of hearing it," she said. "But at this point, if we can ask folks to be as generous as they can, to buy an extra can of soup or a couple of extra boxes of macaroni and cheese, that would be of great help."
Over the past two years, demand at Minnesota's food shelves has increased by about 15 percent, she said.
Cuts in government funding and reductions in corporate contributions are expected to result in about a 30 percent reduction in donations to food banks this year, Kainz said.
Nearly 50,000 more people used food shelves in 2002 than in 2001, according to Minnesota FoodShare statistics. But organizations gave away about 1 million fewer pounds of food.
In December, the food shelf in Virginia placed an ad in the Mesabi Daily News asking the public for help.
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