Single mothers and fathers, vulnerable adults, senior citizens, toddlers and babies — there is no discrimination when it comes to food insecurity. Each day, Feeding South Dakota’s food pantries report lines of people waiting at the door as food bank inventories dwindle statewide.
“Due to various events this year including the government shutdown, lack of access to school meals during the summer, back-to-school expenses, and now tornadoes and statewide flooding, the increase in numbers of those served has nearly depleted our food drive inventory,” said Jennifer Stensaas, marketing and communications coordinator for Feeding South Dakota.
In Rapid City, an average of 6,000 individuals receive food assistance each month. During the month of July, the Food Pantry in Sioux Falls reported serving 2,400 families, a 44 percent increase from July 2018.
“These are impossible numbers of people to serve without additional support from local communities across the state,” Stensaas said.
Here’s how Feeding South Dakota works: The organization distributes food to those in need through its five program areas. Those areas include the Food Bank, Food Pantry, BackPack Program, Mobile Food Pantry Program and Commodity Distribution (CSFP & TEFAP). Because of its affiliation with Feeding America, the Food Bank Program secures and transports donated food from across the country with monetary donations it receives.
“Historically, this support from the Food Bank is not enough for food pantries to rely on. Whether in Rapid City or Sioux Falls — or the many communities in between — pantries need local support in the form of food drives,” said Stensaas. “Community food drives are able to offer the variety that the Food Bank program cannot.”
Community drives bring in foods such as peanut butter, jelly, cereal, boxed meals like Hamburger Helper and Tuna Helper, pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, canned pasta and soup. These foods make it possible for pantries to offer “client choice” or “guest choice” options, where recipients can choose foods that their families enjoy or that support their special dietary needs.
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Food drive season typically starts in mid-October, as the holidays approach, but this year, the food banks need help sooner. Feeding South Dakota asks individuals, businesses, civic groups, churches and schools to consider hosting a food drive.
People who are interested in organizing a food drive can email email@example.com to get started. Other volunteer opportunities are also available, from stocking food pantry shelves to packing food boxes and packages. The Rapid City schedule can be located at feedingsouthdakota.volunteermatrix.com/rapid_city.
Organizations and businesses are recognizing the urgency of the need and stepping in to help.
For instance, Land O’Lakes, Inc. recently donated nearly 40,000 pounds of its macaroni and cheese to Feeding South Dakota through the Land O’Lakes First Run Program. The program — which has given more than 5 million pounds of food since 2010 — donates truckloads of fresh product year-round, made specifically for food banks across the United States.
According to Stensaas, for every $1 donated, Feeding South Dakota can provide three meals to those who are food insecure.
“To be chronically hungry is just unacceptable,” said Stensaas. “For the simple fact that we live in a land where there is plenty, there is no comprehensible reason that our South Dakota neighbors should go without food. Even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference.”