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Mobile food bank regularly assists local rural areas

Angie Reinoehl/MDN Brothers Anders Teigen, left, and Grant Teigen, left middle, volunteer with their mother, Jen Teigen, left back, along with the Rev. Frank Miller, middle, and Hubert Seiler, right. Jen Teigen directed volunteers, who placed large bags and boxes of food into the open trunks of “hungry neighbors.” Great Plains Food Bank’s mobile food pantry made a recent stop in Rugby.

Great Plains Food Bank regularly hauls a mobile food pantry around the state to serve rural communities with limited access to food assistance. Jared Slinde, communications manager for Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, said this program delivers around 1 million pounds of food to hungry neighbors every year.

Slinde said the mobile food pantry, which started in 2008, plays a critical role in serving rural communities. A semi-truck is filled with fresh food and nonperishable items and drives to distribution locations throughout the state, including, but not limited to, Rugby, Dunseith, Lignite, Wildrose, Trenton, Williston, Twin Buttes, Carrington, Tioga, Parshall, Rolette, Belcourt, Harvey, Towner, Mandaree, New Town, Four Bears and White Shield.

At a recent stop in Rugby, clients received bags of apples and potatoes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, cereal and canned goods.

“Our mission here is to end hunger together, and this is a perfect example of how we’re doing that,” Slinde said. He said the goal is to close the food gaps discovered in rural communities.

“That’s really what this is. Ninety percent of the land area in North Dakota is dedicated to agriculture production. These smaller towns can be limited – maybe their food pantry is only open once a month or something like that,” Slinde said.

He said the mobile pantry operates like a drive through. Clients stay in their cars while volunteers place the food directly in their vehicles – a practice adopted during the COVID19 pandemic. He said the model worked so well they decided to stick with it.

“The number of households that will be served at each stop varies by location. This could range from 50 households at some distributions up to 500 households at a location like Williston, Dickinson or Jamestown. In the smaller communities, serving between 50-150 households at each distribution is very common,” Slinde said.

Slinde said the volunteers from each community are vital for this program to exist.

“It really comes down to having those volunteers – those champions – inside these communities to pull this off,” he said.

Slinde said there are enough barriers to food as it is so this program doesn’t have income restrictions. He said anybody who is experiencing food insecurity is welcome to participate in this program.

“The mobile food pantry has a commitment to hit each area of the state at least once per quarter. All individuals throughout our coverage area, which includes all of North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota, can look forward to visiting a mobile food pantry stop near them at least four times per year,” Slinde said.

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