CAER food shelf half way to $125,000 goal

Though smaller than many metro area food shelves, CAER food shelf in Elk River has a big goal for this year’s Minnesota FoodShare March food drive.

CAER’s goal in food and cash donations for this year is $125,000.

“We know that the need is there,” explained Carmen Pouliot, executive director of CAER. “During 2012, we had an 11 percent increase in the number of visits to our agency. That doesn’t include the double digit increases from previous years.”

In addition, the cost of food has increased. According to Pouliot, CAER’s food costs increased more than 20 percent from 2011 through 2012. While some of that extra cost reflects the increased number of client visits, food just costs more.

“We watch our food prices very carefully and take advantage of good deals wherever we can,” said Pouliot “but the price of items like milk fluctuate almost daily and because there is less free food available from food banks and other sources, CAER has had to pay higher prices for more food.”

The good news is that CAER has already raised nearly $79,000 in food and cash donations towards this year’s goal.

“The people of our communities are extremely generous,” said Pouliot.  “Last year we were able to collect 35,000 pounds of food and raise $80,000.  We were then able to receive an additional $23,218 in matching funds.”

Many local organizations have already hosted food drives.  McCoy’s Pub  in downtown Elk River held its 5K Walk/Run for CAER on March 16. Companies, school and churches have held food drives and private individuals have given to the cause. But with only two weeks to go, Pouliot wants to encourage those who have not given to CAER to do so.

“This is the best time to support your local food shelf,” explained Pouliot.  “Your gift will never do more than it will right now because we have the opportunity to receive matching funds.” According to Pouliot, CAER can stretch each dollar given into $10 worth of purchasing power.” Last year that meant nearly $1 million in food support for the area’s hungry.

How to give to CAER

CAER’s Minnesota FoodShare March food drive ends Friday, April 5. Here’s how to help.

•Drop off food or monetary donations to CAER during service hours, which are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 6-8 p.m. Monday and Thursday. Or, mail checks to CAER, 19279 Watson St., Elk River, Minn. 55330. Checks should be made out to Community Aid Elk River.

•Donate online at via PayPal or through GiveMN at

•Buy a prepackaged bag of groceries for CAER at Cub Foods and Coborn’s in Elk River. Both stores also have barrels out for food donations to CAER.