CAER food drive sets record

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Community Aid Elk River’s March food drive raised a record-setting $130,940.

“Last year, we set a goal of $125,000 (in food and cash donations) and we weren’t able to get there. This year, we set the same goal and this community just blew it away,” said Carmen Pouliot, CAER’s executive director. “This year’s total is the most ever raised for CAER during March, Minnesota FoodShare Month. We appreciate all of it and want to thank everyone for their overwhelming generosity.”

She believes a lot of the success was due to new events rolled out for this year’s food drive.

One of them was Cornerstone Auto Group with Ford Motor Company hosting “Test Drive for CAER” at the chamber’s Business Expo on March 30. Each test drive of a new Ford raised $20 for CAER.

Another event involved nine ninth-grade students at Kaleidoscope School in Otsego who put together an empty bowls fundraiser that raised more than $1,800.

Other successful efforts included a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast that raised more than $3,200; and the teachers, parents and students at Lincoln Elementary School in Elk River again this year raised more than any other school with $3,040 in cash and 1,471 pounds of food.

Additionally, McCoy’s third annual 5K Fun Run did very well and contributed to CAER’s successful food drive, she said.

The timing of Easter also may have had an effect, Pouliot said.

Easter fell on March 31 last year, and people were busy with that as the food drive was coming into the home stretch. Easter this year isn’t until April 20.

This year’s March food drive will help take CAER through June and July, when people are often out of town or busy with summer activities and donations to the food shelf typically decline.

“The March food drive was designed to help food shelves stock their pantries in order to get through the busy summer months.,” Pouliot said. “Summer can be particularly difficult for those who are hungry. School lunch programs have ended, straining food budgets that are already stretched.”

In general, Pouiliot said since the recession, they have seen a steady increase in the number of families who visit CAER, and they visit CAER more often.

CAER distributed 791,000 pounds of food in 2013, and the organization expects that number to rise in 2014.

If you were unable to give to CAER in March, Pouliot suggests participating in CAER’s seventh annual Golf Classic, which will be held June 18. For more information on how to sign up, go to CAER is seeking sponsors and silent auction items for the event.