SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Feeding South Dakota is kicking off the holiday season Saturday with its Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, and is prepared to hand out a total of 3,000 complete meals between Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

An impressive number, but tens of thousands of people are currently considered food insecure in South Dakota.

Feeding South Dakota is working to end hunger in the Rushmore State. A noble cause, especially during the holidays.

“Food and holidays meals are an important part of family gatherings and we want to ensure that every family can bring food to the table,” Feeding South Dakota CEO Lori Dykstra said.

Lori Dykstra is CEO of Feeding South Dakota, where an increasing number of families are seeking assistance for the first time.

“We have 72,000 individuals in the state of South Dakota who are food insecure and right now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we can pack enough boxes to get out to those families,” Dykstra said.

Dykstra says a recent study by the USDA indicates food insecurity rose by 31% from 2021 to ’22, the highest jump since the great depression of ’08.

“And we’re seeing those impacts right here in KELOLAND. In the month of September we had 900 more families visit our mobile distribution site over the previous month, and in October we put out 2,000 more backpacks,” Dykstra said.

On a positive note, Feeding South Dakota is also seeing an increase in volunteers.

“The amount of volunteers that help us run this place every day in all three of our locations, it’s necessary. We can’t get the boxes out without the 40-plus volunteers that come through Sioux Falls each day,” Dykstra said.

“Many hands make light work and so having more volunteers makes the work so much more impactful and go much faster, and then food drives are always a great way to fill the needs of Feeding South Dakota, whether it’s a family food drive or a food drive at your business or church or a group that you’re in,” Development Director Megan Kjose said.

Megan Kjose is Development Director at Feeding South Dakota.

“Everybody is thinking about others, making sure that you have family and friends around the table this holiday season, so I think people are really, really excited and geared up to give back this holiday season,” Kjose said.

“Really just builds the teamwork between us, but then also it allows us to give back to the community and back to the state,” Sioux Falls resident Stephanie Gruener said.

Stephanie Gruener is part of the Aerotek team volunteering for a second consecutive year at Feeding South Dakota.

“This is obviously a time of giving with Thanksgiving coming up and then also with Christmas, and so it really allows me, as well as our team, to not just financially give out to other community events or volunteering but also giving back our time and really helping out and supporting,” Gruener said.

She encourages more businesses and individuals to join the cause.

“With this holiday season, giving your time to really help another family who might be needing this or might be in a tough spot right now anything matters right now, so if you can give an hour of your time, three hours, or even just a week of your time, it really just helps, every little piece,” Gruener said.

Along with every dollar.

“There’s a lot of food and fund drives, and while food is really important we can always make that dollar stretch a little further, so if you’re able to donate money, we can take that money and turn it into a lot more food at the cost that we’re able to purchase food at,” Dykstra said.

Making the holidays happy for everyone involved with Feeding South Dakota.

“This is a time of year that’s really special, I think to even volunteer with your family, to be able to give back to our community and to ensure that all those families have food to put on their table for the holidays,” Dykstra said.

“When I think of the holidays and Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, I think of my close family and friends, making sure that we’re all together, so for guests to be able to receive a Thanksgiving meal this November or the makings of a holiday box this December, we’re really, really proud of that, being able to provide those good holiday feelings for everybody,” Kjose said.

The Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway is this Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls and from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Fairgrounds in Rapid City.

If you’d like to donate your time or money to Feeding South Dakota, click HERE