Elderly residents relying on North St. Paul food shelf spikes

More and more elderly residents are turning to the North St. Paul Area Food Shelf every month to meet their nutritional needs, according to Linda Zick, food shelf director.

“We serve a different demographic” than other food shelves, said Zick, explaining that North St. Paul and Oakdale have a greater percentage of older residents than outer-ring suburbs, which have more young families.

She said often it will be only an older man or woman stopping by the food pantry instead of a family with kids.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10 percent of people aged 65 and older live in poverty. When seniors combine a fixed income, medication costs, medical bills and other living expenses, they end the month without enough money for food. That’s when they head to the food shelf for assistance.

Zick says the charity serves about 14 low-income households every weekday, and gives away about 26,000 pounds of food a month. 

“It used to be that seniors were too proud to come,” Zick said, though she and the other volunteers try to encourage those who need the assistance to lean on the organization. 

While North St. Paul Area Food Shelf serves mostly seniors, it is also run by mostly seniors. 

“Everybody there except for two people are senior volunteers, and we’re slowly losing our seniors,” said Dave Zick, president of the food shelf board and Linda’s husband.

Senior volunteers “are all that’s available during the day,” Linda added.

“The younger people, what with raising a family, they just don’t have the time” to volunteer at the food shelf, Dave said.

Volunteering can be especially difficult for non-retired people because the food shelf is open between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. with the volunteers starting as early as 7:30 a.m. on some days. 

“We’re trying to keep people in the community involved and churches, too,” Linda said.

The food shelf is supported by several community organizations such as the local chapter of the Rotary Club, Lionsgate Academy, North High School Honor Society and Junior ROTC, and several churches in the area, but the food shelf still finds itself short of help in the winter months.

“This month has been a bear of a time finding volunteers,” said Ron Czerepak, food shelf volunteer coordinator. “Many retirees head down south in the winter.”

Right now, the food shelf is looking for volunteer workers who can lift 40 pounds and walk up stairs. They would help receive food shipments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

On Thursdays the shipment arrives at 7:30 a.m., so those volunteers need to be available early in the morning. Deliveries can total anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds of food that the organization purchases in addition to the donations it receives. 

“We’ve been very lucky with the help that we have gotten. ...We have [also] been very lucky with the donations,” Linda said.

The Zicks have volunteered for 13 years, and Czerepak for nine years.

“The food shelf has become a sort of family,” Linda said.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the food shelf, located in downtown North St. Paul at 2538 E. Seppala Blvd., can call Ron Czerepak at 651-770-6303.


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at akinney@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7822. 


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