Gardeners encouraged to donate to food pantries

Gardeners filling their fridges and storage shelves with this year's bumper crop are being encouraged to help fill the stomachs of those fighting hunger.

Gardeners filling their fridges and storage shelves with this year's bumper crop are being encouraged to help fill the stomachs of those fighting hunger.

September is Hunger Action Month, and the Cass-Clay Hunger Coalition on Tuesday promoted its "30 Ways in 30 Days" campaign to address what a Great Plains Food Bank official called "staggering" statistics about the local hunger problem.

One in 11 people in Cass and Clay counties seeks help from the charitable food network, and 40 percent of those are children, said Marcia Paulson, the food bank's marketing and development director.

"Food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelter feeding programs are reporting that more people are served more often, and that they're serving people who've never needed their services before," she said.

The 10 community food shelves saw nearly 79,000 visitors in 2009, up 13 percent from 2008, Paulson said, adding the increased demand persisted through the first half of this year.


"And so the need remains high," with the busy holiday season fast approaching, she said.

Abby Gold, a nutrition specialist with the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University extension services, said one in four U.S. children lives in "food-insecure" households, where parents may have to choose between feeding their children or themselves, or where school lunches are a child's only nutritious meals.

Food insecurity may also mean lack of access to healthy calories such as those found at Moorhead's Probstfield Organic Community Gardens, site of Tuesday's news conference, she said.

The Great Plains Food Bank, which serves 257 agencies across North Dakota and in Clay County, set a goal this year to collect 500,000 pounds of perishable food, officials said.

One means to that end is the Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Initiative, which encourages gardeners to plant an extra plot and donate the fruits and veggies to food pantries.

Gardeners and others may bring produce to the food bank at 1720 3rd Ave. N. in Fargo, which will then distribute the produce to its member agencies to reach those in need.

"To have fresh, perishable fruits and vegetables high in nutrition, quality products available, as part of a food basket is an incredible gift for families who are seeking that type of help," Paulson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528


Ways to help during Hunger Action Month

Following are ways the public can help fight hunger during September, according to the Cass-Clay Hunger Coalition:

  • Participate in the Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Initiative by donating produce.
  • Volunteer on the National Day of Service on Saturday; serve a meal at a local soup kitchen.
  • Attend the YWCA Chocolate Fantasy event on Sept. 16 and St. Vincent DePaul's Friends of the Poor Walk on Sept. 25.
  • Donate to the Backpack Program through the Great Plains Food Bank.
  • Conduct a food drive in your neighborhood or workplace.

For more, go to .

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