ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud's largest food shelf now looks unmistakably like a grocery store.

Catholic Charities Emergency Services food shelf is now considered a "SuperShelf," and celebrated with an open house Tuesday afternoon at their Roosevelt Road facility.

SuperShelf, developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, is a program that works with food shelves around the state to increase the amount of fresh produce, meats, whole grains, dairy and cooking ingredients on shelves.

The model also encourages arranging aisles to highlight healthy foods, and tucking away less healthy items like snack foods and pre-made meals.

Sue Hanks, Emergency Services program manager, says food shelf users have complete say over which items make it into their grocery bags; the SuperShelf setup just guides them in more nutrient-rich directions.

"(SuperShelf) places a lot of emphasis on training volunteers to nudge people towards healthy choices," said Sue Hanks, Emergency Services program manager. "There's also a lot about location in the research — for instance, having fruits and vegetables right up front, displayed so that people want them."

Abby Faulkner

The food shelf also boasts new floors and coolers, fresh paint, multilingual signage and decorative hanging quilts.

Food shelf inventory is collected daily, with a large percentage of items donated by area grocers, restaurants and discount stores.

Hanks says the SuperShelf project came together with the help of around 300 volunteers. Of the 44 SuperShelves in Minnesota, St. Cloud's is the largest.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

"Today is to celebrate that we did it, and to let the community know that this is the community food shelf," Hanks said. "We wanted to celebrate their role in this."

Abby Faulkner

Catholic Charities Emergency Services provides over 180,000 pounds of food to around 6,500 individuals and 2,500 households every month.

"If you're hungry, and you need food, we will help you," Hanks said.

Hanks says they're always looking for volunteers; to learn more, visit their website.