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Continuing their effort

Loaves and Fishes meets the growing needs of community

Submitted photo Marshall’s Loaves and Fishes Site coordinator, Christy Bottger, hands out lunches near the pool at the YMCA this past summer.

MARSHALL — From densely-populated urban areas of Minnesota to rural outstate locations here in Marshall, the nonprofit organization Loaves and Fishes has made it its mission to provide those in need with a healthy, free meal. In the midst of a pandemic, unfortunately, the need has never been greater.

In the month of July alone, Loaves and Fishes served more than 505,000 meals, which accounts for nearly half of all the meals served in all of 2019. Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes Cathy Maes doesn’t foresee this trend slowing down in the months to come.

“August has been just as high. We’re still seeing high numbers in September. I don’t anticipate that there will be a decrease any time soon,” said Maes. “We’re actually anticipating a steady increase especially as unemployment numbers are high.”

The sharp increase has come along with some drastic changes in protocol with handing out meals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’ve had to change our model during this time so right now cars just drive up and food is given to them for however many people they have in their household, where normally they would come in and sit down and eat. So that really has changed our model in Marshall and all of our locations,” said Maes.

Marshall Loaves and Fishes Site Coordinator Christy Bottger has seen the adjustments firsthand while working to meet the growing needs of the community. Bottger spends her mornings at the YMCA providing lunch for young children before working 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Loaves and Fishes’ dinner site, Esther’s Kitchen, to provide meals for families.

Loaves & Fishes has worked in cooperation with Esther’s Kitchen, located at Christ United Presbyterian Church in Marshall since 2014, while its YMCA affiliation began four summers ago. Normally, the YMCA meal program would end prior to the start of the school year, but given the circumstances of the pandemic, Loaves & Fishes is hopeful that the program can continue into the school year.

“We’re waiting for the USDA to let us know that we can continue to do the meals and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to continue the partnership even through the school year with the YMCA since school it’s so different,” Maes said.

The food given to those in need at the YMCA and Esther’s Kitchen comes through collaborative efforts between Loaves and Fishes and Second Harvest Heartland. Bottger says that local farmers have also been very generous in providing local produce.

“A lot of our local farmers are more than generous,” Bottger said. “They grow fresh vegetables for us and even wash them for us. They’re just awesome.”

“They call me and they’re like ‘Christy I have this.’ It’s just amazing how they know what I could use,” she said. “They want to be anonymous, no glory no shine. They come and help you every day of the week.”

With more and more people seeking out the assistance of Loaves and Fishes for healthy, free meals, Bottger encourages new volunteers to stop by and help out in any way they can.

“We’re always wanting volunteers. Recently, we just had the Marshall football team come down, that was great. We enjoyed them. I enjoy the volunteers I enjoy meeting and greeting new people,” Bottger said.

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