The North Country Food Bank has been providing food to local food shelves since 1983. When they first got started, the concept was simple – capture surplus food from the USDA, food manufacturers, grocery retail outlets and farmers to feed hungry people. They can capture donations that are too large for local agencies to handle. Today, North Country distributes food to over 230 charitable organizations on an annual basis. North Country’s service area covers 21 counties in northwest and west central Minnesota and part of Grand Forks, North Dakota. North Country is a member of Feeding America. Most of North Country’s member agencies receive 70 to 90 percent of all the food they distribute from North Country. Their staff consists of 11 full-time paid staff, one part-time paid staff, and more than 1,200 volunteers. They are able to do a lot with a little; last year they distributed 8,096,056 million pounds of food – which is the equivalent of 6,746,713 meals!
|Susie Novak (NCFB Executive Director) with
Nate Dorr (NMF Community Programs Specialist)
in one of two NCFB food storage buildings
The high rates of poverty in northwest and west central Minnesota lead to high rates of hunger. According to Feeding America’s most recent Map the Meal Gap (a nationwide study of hunger), 11 percent of the people living within North Country’s service area are food insecure. Based on the total population of the area, that means that 37,700 people are hungry on an ongoing basis. Persons served by North Country are also disproportionately impacted by chronic health issues including hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Currently, it’s estimated that more than 350 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables go to waste in Minnesota every year.
While donations of non-perishable, shelf-stable foods have been decreasing, the availability of perishables from retailers, growers, and other sources has been increasing. Produce is a healthier and more high-quality option, but it also requires a higher skill level, knowledge of specialized techniques and processes, and an understanding of the related safety concerns. Handling produce donations require different types of infrastructure including vehicles, equipment, and storage space.
Northern Dental Access in Bemidji has agreed to partner with North Country on the produce drop concept. Northern Dental Access provides disadvantaged individuals and families with dental services. Because many of the clients at Northern Dental Access also utilize local food shelves, they can be provided with healthy food in a place that they already visit and are familiar with. Also, agencies such as Northern Dental Access can help promote the drops and ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the service.
|NCFB warehouse staff filling orders to be distributed around
NMF is excited to be a partner in this initiative, and we’re looking forward to seeing more fresh food being available to residents all over the region.