Serving as the region’s only food bank, the Great Plains Food Bank plays a unique role in hunger relief in our community. By rescuing surplus food from the food industry, they ensure it safely gets into the hands of our hungry neighbors in need.
The bank provides food assistance to more than 97,000 hungry individuals each year, which equates to one in nine individuals in our community and state, Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent told us. “Sadly, of those 36% are children and another 12% are seniors.”
Through its network, they supply over 11 million meals annually to our neighbors struggling with hunger. “Our staff and board of directors are driven each day by our values of passion, service and innovation to advance our vision of ending hunger throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota,” Sellent said.
Five innovative programs are designed to fill the hunger gap for children, seniors and individuals living in rural communities:
- Backpack program: A single backpack is filled with milk, juice, snacks and food for three meals to assist hungry children over the weekend.
- School pantry program: To help solve child hunger by providing nutritious food to children and their families in convenient, familiar and safe locations.
- Youth summer meals program: To help those relying on free and reduced cost school lunches to get healthy food during the summer months.
- Senior food pack program: A commodity-based program providing nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors.
- SNAP Outreach: Formerly known as the food stamp program and the nation’s largest federal nutritional assistance program, assists with the program application and with identifying single people and families that qualify.
Beyond these programs, the Great Plains Food Bank offers a Pop-Up Perishable Food Program and Mobile Food Pantry that bring both fresh and shelf-stable food directly to rural communities.
Food industry partners also allow the Great Plains Food Bank to offer a business solution for waste management costs, and an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility. Then, they store and prepare the product for distribution with a volunteer force of 5,500. A total of 213 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens rely on the Great Plains Food Bank.
By 2007, a record 5 million pounds was distributed to 200 partner agencies statewide. On average, the bank supplies 83% of all food in food baskets, while saving other local non-profits that serve hot meals $1.8 million annually.
In their 35-year history, they’ve seen immense growth. Last year, they distributed almost 6 million pounds of food to people in Cass and Clay counties who sought emergency food assistance through their programs and services, or their partner network of pantries, shelters and kitchens. This is an increase of over 11% in just three years.
In the next five years, their plan is to reduce the missing meal gap by 50%. This gets them closer to their transformational goal of creating a hunger-free community by 2037.
At the core of everything the Great Plains Food Bank does is a commitment to end hunger. They believe that when you feed a child, you feed our future. And their guiding philosophy is what’s in the best interest of our hungry neighbors.
Ending Hunger 2.0
Hunger is a complex issue that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If food alone was the answer to ending hunger, we would have done it by now. But we haven’t. That’s why Great Plains Food Bank launched Ending Hunger 2.0 – a new approach to ending hunger that works to bring sustainable, long-term solutions to hunger through Advocacy, Research and Community Based Solutions.
To learn more, donate or volunteer, visit greatplainsfoodbank.org.
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