Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

It takes a lot of planning to feed those in need

FARGO - Each of the boxes in the corner of the auto-service bay contained a turkey, a box each of stuffing, mashed potatoes and butter, 3 cans of vegetables, a can of cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie."It's everything that you would need for a Th...

Food baskets are assembled for the Salvation Army's turkey basket give away at Luther Family Ford in south Fargo on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. David Samson / The Forum
Food baskets are assembled for the Salvation Army's turkey basket give away at Luther Family Ford in south Fargo on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO - Each of the boxes in the corner of the auto-service bay contained a turkey, a box each of stuffing, mashed potatoes and butter, 3 cans of vegetables, a can of cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie.

"It's everything that you would need for a Thanksgiving meal," said Maj. Byron Medlock, who, with his wife, Maj. Elaine Medlock, lead the Salvation Army office here.

This year, 277 families signed up for the free Thanksgiving baskets. A steady stream of family members stopped by what normally is Luther Family Ford's auto-detailing center Monday morning, Nov. 20, to pick up the baskets.

The auto dealer's employees assembled the baskets from food the Salvation Army provided.

Elaine Medlock said the bread was free from the local Pan-o-Gold bakery and milk was half off from Land O' Lakes.The charity bought the rest at a grocery store to keep things simple rather than seek donations as it often does for its dining room, she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"While you could accumulate donated food, then you've gotta to store it somewhere," she said. "We don't have space for all that and the manpower to move it over and over again."

For charities that provide food to those in need, such as the Salvation Army, the logistics chain can be complex. Suppliers vary by kind and capability, ranging from major food manufacturers and the U.S. government, to the gardens of individual donors. Sometimes the food is free and sometimes they must pay when donations don't match needs.

"For us, it's keeping a higher nutritional value in the different foods that we can give out," said Stacie Loegering, executive director of the Emergency Food Pantry.

Filling the gap

Charities have different ways of getting the food their clients need, depending on the occasion.

Where the Salvation Army's Thanksgiving baskets require ease of assembly and very specific foods - turkey, stuffing and cranberries are must-haves - its kitchen requires fresh produce to provide nutritious meals.

Elaine Medlock said about a quarter of the food comes from individual donors - she remembered the delicious carrots that one donor brought in from a garden - a quarter from the Great Plains Food Bank and the rest purchased.

She said her charity spends about $50,000 a year to ensure it always has fresh produce available when not enough comes in through donations. When the cook takes a day off, she'll buy food that can be easily prepared, she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

At the Emergency Food Pantry nearby, Loegering said 60 percent of the food comes from local donors including food drives and area businesses, 30 percent from Great Plains and the rest purchased.

"There are times like this time of year and a couple of times where we'll need to often buy some of those protein foods," she said. "We don't get enough of that donated in to feel like we're giving enough variety out to the family. So we'll take any of the financial donations that we get and then purchase the food to supplement."

Her pantry put out a call for more protein recently, but ran so low on tuna it ended up buying some, she said.

Beyond government cheese

At the Great Plains Food Bank, which is to these charities what a wholesaler is to a restaurant or a grocery store, the logistics are even more complex.

About 4 percent of the 13 million pounds of food the food bank provides each year comes from individuals and food drives, said Operations Director JoAnn Matthews. While it isn't a huge amount, they play a key role for the 215 charities the food bank serves in North Dakota and Clay County, she said.

"They love the food drives," Matthews said. "It's the bigger variety of different products, different canned goods and all that type of stuff. So it's pretty important to our agencies."

Great Plains pays for another 4 percent, usually when it doesn't get enough donations for certain items in high demand, including the protein that the Emergency Food Pantry has such difficulty keeping in stock. To get discounts, the food bank will buy a truckload at a time.

ADVERTISEMENT

This is one of the few kinds of food that Great Plains charges its agencies; nearly all the rest is free.

About 8 percent of the food comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides surplus commodities. For many, this conjures visions of enormous blocks of government cheese of decades past, but Matthews said there is much more variety in today's commodities and she can request what she needs. Fresh fruits and vegetables, ground beef, chicken, ham, orange juice, peanut butter and tomato soup have all come from the USDA, she said.

Great Plains Food Bank's biggest suppliers by volume, however, are food producers and retailers. They make up most of the rest of the food. Feeding America, a Chicago-based organization that is the food banks' food bank provides the bulk. The group works directly with food producers to "rescue" food before it goes to waste.

Matthews said producers usually donate when they have food that is edible and nutritious, but just can't be sold for some reason.

She ticked off four reasons: The producers made too much of a product; the product is damaged in some small way that causes wholesalers to send them back; the product is reaching the end of its shelf life and must be consumed soon; and the product didn't quite meet standards, such as having more sugar or fewer raisins than the recipe calls for.

At the local level, Great Plains also talks to grocery stores to collect food that they can't sell, she said.

This food trade goes both ways for food banks and their agencies.

Great Plains works with five regional food banks in Minnesota to ensure it has a variety of food and will sometimes get sent surplus food from its agencies.

Matthews hesitated to use the word "trade," which implies a straight exchange such as one pallet of beans for one pallet of corn.

She said it's more like sharing. "You share when you get more."

Food baskets are assembled for the Salvation Army's turkey basket give away at Luther Family Ford in south Fargo on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. David Samson / The Forum
Salvation Army Maj. Byron Medlock grabs a box of food for delivery during the turkey basket give away at Luther Family Ford in south Fargo on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. David Samson / The Forum

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
What To Read Next
The Buffalo Bills safety who suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football in January is urging people to learn how to save lives the way his was saved.
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
A Sanford doctor says moderate cold exposure could be the boost people need for their day.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.