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Food shelf looks to the future

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It's been a year of transitions for the Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf.

First, its founder and original executive director Dick Wolff retired prompting the food shelf to bring in an interim director.

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Then, Wolff died in January, leaving behind a lasting legacy.

But this spring, Christian Cupboard opened a new chapter with the hire of its new executive director, Kristin Kinney.

Kinney began in her new role May 1.

"We wanted someone with broad experience with a number of facets of social services and the people that we serve," said Greig Metzger, chairman of the Christian Cupboard board of directors. "It was less about specific food shelf experience and more about helping lower income people in need and Kristin brought a broad breadth of experience that we thought would be useful."

Kinney will be responsible for the general management of Christian Cupboard including operations, fundraising, public awareness, coordinating volunteers and program development.

Metzger said Christian Cupboard will also be looking to Kinney to do a lot of outreach with clients and the community.

Kinney has held a number of positions over the years where she has worked with low income families.

She has worked for such organizations as the Dakota County Community Development Agency, Ramsey County Workforce Solutions and Lifetrack Resources, Inc., a local nonprofit agency serving local families in need.

"(Christian Cupboard) offered an opportunity to work with a similar population in a different type of environment," she said. "The level of outreach from the community was a nice switch from what I was used to -- it was kind of exciting that way, too."

Kinney said she was drawn to a career in social services and working with low income families because she herself came from that environment.

"I didn't grow up with a lot of means financially," she said, "so we just learned a good work ethic and to keep moving forward.

"I've always kind of had that helping nature I guess - it's in my personality."

Kinney said she enjoys working with low income families becauses she likes the opportunity to help get them back on their feet.

"I enjoy trying to get them so they're stable," she said. "I like to help get them connected to resources so that they can be healthy, vital community members."

A 'new' food shelf

Kinney's hire at Christian Cupboard is just one facet of the food shelf's transition period.

Christian Cupboard is slowly moving toward more of a "choice model" for its distribution.

The choice model, Metzger said, moves away from the pre-packaged food and instead allows clients to choose what food they want from categories.

"There's a whole host of benefits associated with that," he said. "It's a more efficient use of food, it allows clients to better match what they have in their own home and on their shelves.

"It's providing them things they will eat versus things they will not eat."

In addition to the distribution model. Christian Cupboard is also looking to help connect families with other services for troubles they may be facing.

"We're approaching more of a holistic view of food insecurity and hunger," he said.

Some of the other services Christian Cupboard is hoping to address are income, employment, education and health.

"We're trying to fill in some of the gaps for the families and kind of have a 'one-stop-shop' concept," Kinney said.

Metzger and Kinney said they are excited for the future of Christian Cupboard.

"There's an opportunity to have a broader solution for our clients," Metzger said. "It's another step along the path as we continue to transform the organization."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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