Watonwan County Food Shelf completes transformation at old Mayberry Lanes

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Friday afternoon, local volunteers helped put the final touches on the Watonwan County Food Shelf's move into the former Mayberry Lanes, crafting and stocking shelves, completing a seven-month-long process of finding a new home for the food shelf.

"My heart is so happy right now I could cry," said Watonwan County Food Shelf Director Katherine Petty. "This is amazing. The crew that we have here is amazing. We didn't know what to expect for a turnout, and it just makes my heart so happy."

In September 2020, Petty, Beth Labenz, Watonwan County SNAP Educator, and a food shelf board member wrote up a grant for a new home for the food shelf. In October, the food shelf received news that their grant proposal had been accepted. A few months later in December, the food shelf purchased Mayberry Lanes, and began demolition and construction in February.

Petty and Labenz, along with Dianne Davis Kenning of SuperShelf, have developed a plan for the Watonwan County Food Shelf, targeting more variety and healthier food options.

SuperShelf has been transforming food shelves all over the state, promoting individual choice, healthy food options, and culturally appropriate food options and groups, including fruits and vegetables, dairy, proteins, grains, and cooking/baking.

"The purpose is to show them healthier food options first and encourage that," said Davis Kenning. "Anything that was odd fits somewhere now... The healthier choices are more at eye-level."

With the goal of more healthy and a variety of options, the food shelf hopes that patrons will start working on home cooking. 

A huge boost for the food shelf is a handful of freezers, which will allow frozen foods to be available in bulk, something that was unavailable to food shelf goers in the old 600 square foot space. 

"We want people that need it to come in and make it feel like a grocery store, and that it's a warm, friendly, inviting environment and not feel like they're having to come to the food shelf because they need help," said Petty.

Davis Kenning has worked on approximately 35 SuperShelf transformations in the state and was near Net Lake just prior to traveling down to Watonwan County.

"Catherine and Beth have done an amazing job," said Davis Kenning.

Petty estimates that the food shelf will be reopened on April 28th and hopes to have an open house sometime before that, where community members can pop in and see the new 6,000 square foot facility.