FARGO, North Dakota — It takes a lot of food to fed more than 150,000 people each year. And that makes the Great Plains Food Bank thankful for donations of fresh produce that come from farmers.

Farmers donate potatoes to the Great Plains Food Bank in the fall, an important contribution to the fight against hunger.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek
Farmers donate potatoes to the Great Plains Food Bank in the fall, an important contribution to the fight against hunger. Trevor Peterson / Agweek
The Greater Fargo-Moorhead Area Food Bank on March 22, 1983, began operations by recovering 189,000 pounds of surplus product from the food industry and distributing it to feeding programs in Fargo-Moorhead. Within 15 months, the program was renamed Great Plains Food Bank to reflect its growing service area and rising food donations.

Bulk donations of potatoes from farmers are repackaged into smaller quantities for distribution from the Great Plains Food Bank.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek
Bulk donations of potatoes from farmers are repackaged into smaller quantities for distribution from the Great Plains Food Bank. Trevor Peterson / Agweek
Nearly 30 years late, the Great Plains Food Bank serves communities across North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. The food bank today distributes 14 million pounds of food across more than 300 charitable feeding programs in its footprint.

The food bank still relies on surplus food and grocery products. But it also gets a significant boost from farmers who donate fresh produce. In fact, about 20% of the fresh produce donated to the Great Plains Food Bank comes from local farmers. In 2020, that amounted to 4.6 million pounds. In the fall, those donations often include corn, potatoes and squash. On a recent day, volunteers were packing a bulk donation of potatoes into smaller packages to be distributed to food pantries around the region.

Canned goods are helpful donations at the Great Plains Food Bank because they provide long-lasting food needs. However, fresh donations are also vital because they tend to be more healthy.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek
Canned goods are helpful donations at the Great Plains Food Bank because they provide long-lasting food needs. However, fresh donations are also vital because they tend to be more healthy. Trevor Peterson / Agweek
"The fresh produce that we provide to our community members is huge, because we like to always try to have the most healthy and nutritious foods available," said Kramer Stuth, Great Plains Food Bank logistics manager. "And canned goods are fantastic, because they have long shelf lives, but they're not necessarily always the healthiest type. And so we want to be able to try to accommodate all different types of needs and different types of dietary needs, so the fresh produce helps out a lot with that."

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The Great Plains Food Bank serves communities across North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek
The Great Plains Food Bank serves communities across North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. Trevor Peterson / Agweek
Because of the perishable nature of the fresh food donations, Great Plains Food Bank also really depends on community volunteers to get the produce distributed as quickly as possible.

The Great Plains Food Bank always is in need of donations of both money and food and volunteers. For ways to help the food bank, visit https://www.greatplainsfoodbank.org.