SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Feeding South Dakota received a big financial boost today that will provide more meals for struggling families in rural parts of the state. Avera Health is giving the non-profit a $175,000 donation that will bring hundreds of thousands of meals to rural communities.

Volunteers pack box after box of food on-the-go… all the way to the remotest corners of South Dakota where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is out of reach for so many people.

“Less grocery stores, less access to jobs, just the availability of fresh produce is just limited in these areas,” Feeding South Dakota CEO Lori Dykstra said.

Avera’s $175,000 donation will go to Feeding South Dakota’s Mobile Food Distribution Program that’s seen an increase in demand statewide.

“Now, more than ever, these donations mean so much to us. This is the most expensive time in food bank history. We’re having to purchase more food with donations being down,” Dykstra said.

Avera sees the donation as an investment in healthier families across South Dakota.

“Lack of adequate nutrition and healthy foods also leads to increased chronic diseases, it leads to increased hypertension, diabetes, heart disease,” Dr. David Basel of Avera Health said.

It’s not difficult at all for Avera physicians to diagnose a case of food insecurity in a South Dakota household.

“This comes to light when you do a home visit on somebody, you look in their pantry and you’ve got somebody you’ve been treating for hypertension and diabetes and you open the pantry and it’s ramen noodles and spaghetti and canned vegetables and that’s pretty much all they have to live on,” Basel said.

The donation is expected to provide more than a half-million meals in the state, bridging the miles that separate so many rural families from their next healthy meal.

Feeding South Dakota’s Mobile Food Distribution Program visits 120 locations, serving more than 12,000 families each month.