Food shelf Sharing Korner's closure leaves 14,000 Frogtown residents foraging

Roughly 4,500 families relied on Sharing Korner. Some had been visiting the Frogtown food shelf for a decade-plus.

Roughly 4,500 families relied on Sharing Korner. Some had been visiting the Frogtown food shelf for a decade-plus.

Wedged between Dale Street and Western Avenue in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood sits Sharing Korner. The food shelf's prime location, just blocks from the Green Line, made it convenient for those without a car.

For 26 years, it welcomed all comers with meat, shampoo, and canned veggies.  

About 97 percent of Sharing Korner's clients survive below the poverty line. Eleven percent have no income source.  

"Threadbare" had long defined the operation. Frogtown couldn't support itself, since the median neighborhood income has plummeted by almost a quarter since 1999. So the food shelf cobbled together help from corporations, grants, and platoons of volunteers to unload deliveries and stock shelves.

According to Mary Brant, who headed Sharing Korner for the last 16 years, the place served about 14,000 people.

"We had clients that either had a health issue or age issue that we actually delivered to," Brant says. "We didn't advertise that because it would've opened up a huge thing, but we did."

Take the family of 11 that had been coming since 1998. Or the homeless single mom with a teenage daughter who couch-hopped while their names withered on waiting lists at three shelters.

"I hate that!" says Brant. "To hear stories like that makes me so mad." 

Ire melts to melancholy when Brant explains why Sharing Korner closed earlier this month.

The advent of more charities resulted in a dilution of resources. Asking for help had deteriorated into scrounging, explains Brant.

"It got to be really difficult in terms of the bureaucracy," she says. "We'd have one funding source that wanted to have very specific demographics in terms of age, income, ethnicity, you name it." 

In the end, appeasing too many handlers robbed the charity of time actually feeding people. And its food supply was dwindling. 

As of June 17, Frogtown locals must look to other charity food pantries.

"It's creating new challenges for our clients, for sure," says Brant. "There can be a stigma, a judgment, for people living in the inner city. But what I have found… that the people that we served, I have the utmost respect for. I think they are some of the most resilient people I've ever met. I think if our economy were to go belly up, I think they would fare far better than somebody with five times their income because they've learned to survive with the bare minimum."