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September 03, 2013 06:52 PM

Mobile Food Pantries Help Feed The Need Across SD

sioux falls, sd

Most of us associate Feeding South Dakota with community food banks.  The pantries in Sioux Falls and Rapid City provide more than a million meals per year.  But the organization reaches far beyond that, helping people in every county in the state.

Tuny Kryger is among more than 100 people in line for donations at St. John American Lutheran Church.  The stay-at-home mother of four has children who range in age from 11 years to 6 months. Her fiance works full time, but because of their large family, they struggle making ends meet.

"We live paycheck to paycheck," Kryger said. "With rent and all that other stuff and everything is going up."

On good weeks, the family can get by without help.  But Kryger often relies on non-profits like Food To You supplemented by Feeding South Dakota.

"If it weren't for all these churches getting together and getting all of these donations, I don't know where half of us will be," Kryger said.

Food To You helps 400 families a month and travels to different Sioux Falls sites nearly every week.  The program is in its fifth year and the need keeps rising.

"Each distribution, we see an average of 25 to 40 percent of the people who come are new to the program for the very first time," Willers said.

The non-profit receives donations from church groups each month, but relies heavily on goods from Feeding South Dakota.

The non-profit puts in an order for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and breads. And with a minimal handling fee of 18 cents per pound, the food is delivered straight from the Feeding South Dakota warehouse.

Food banking is the largest and most misunderstood program at Feeding South Dakota. Rather than providing food directly to families, the Feeding South Dakota warehouse distributes to 350 charitable organizations each year. Those groups, like Food To You, use the food to feed people in the community.

"That's really what makes the food banking part of it unique," Feeding South Dakota Executive Director Matt Gassen said. "It's that wholesale warehouse distribution that you'd see in corporate America."

Food is given to local food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the state from three distribution sites. A recent study found that eliminating the food bank would have a significant or devastating effect on 77 percent of those programs. But it's still not enough.

"One thing that is really the most disheartening is we're still not making a lot of progress on the numbers of people that are hungry. As hard as we may try, that number seems to continue to climb," Gassen said.

To reach more of the state's hungry, Feeding South Dakota launched its newest program -- a mobile food pantry. This refrigerated truck delivers food to extremely rural communities. This delivery in Lower Brule brought out more than 100 people in January.

Nearly half of the individuals served by Feeding South Dakota are children. And to help students who will not eat a meal while away from school, the Backpack Program supplements food over the weekend.  Gassen expects to help more than 5,000 students in the Sioux Falls area this year, and more than 1,800 in Rapid City.

"It's a challenge and a fight that we'll continue to fight," Gassen said. "We're not going to give up because our role in the state of South Dakota is to do that."

And families are thankful for the continued support. Kryger says the volunteers and donors set a good example for her young children.

"Not only does it put food in their bellies, but it shows that people care and they'll continue to care no matter what is going on. It's just awesome," Kryger said.

But Feeding South Dakota can't make a dent in the state's hunger and continue supporting non-profits without your help.

To close the hunger gap, Feeding South Dakota needs help providing an additional 16 million meals.

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