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Volunteers work at Feeding South Dakota to sort and pack donated food items from area grocery stores. Michelle Rook / Forum News Service

South Dakotans Thankful for Feeding South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Thousands of cans and boxes of donated food line the shelves from the floor to the roof in the Feeding South Dakota warehouse in Sioux Falls. With this abundance and the productivity of the nation’s farmers, it’s hard to imagine anyone going hungry during the holiday, especially in a rural state like South Dakota.  

However, the statistics tell the story.  

Feeding South Dakota CEO Matt Gassen says the hunger problem is real in the state.

“In South Dakota one in nine individuals is deemed to be food insecure,” he says.   

Even more startling is the large percentage that are children.  

“As we gather statistics from our pantries, whether they operate in Sioux Falls to Rapid City, 45 percent of the individuals that receive food from our food pantries are children,” he says.  

That’s why South Dakotans who are food insecure are so thankful for the services provided by Feeding South Dakota throughout the year, especially during the holidays.  

Around Thanksgiving, the organization does special activities for families to ensure they can celebrate the holiday with a traditional meal of turkey and all the trimmings. On Nov. 17, they did a drive-through turkey giveaway at all their locations.  

“We’re going to do over 1,000 of those meals here in Sioux Falls, probably 500 or more in Pierre, and about 750 of those meals will be provided out in Rapid City,” Gassen says.

Another 1,100 meals were shared through agencies that partner with the Feeding South Dakota.    

Donations to Feeding South Dakota, as might be expected, pick up around the holidays, Gassen says.

“The holiday season is a time when people are most attuned to giving,” he says. “They’re thinking about others that are less fortunate than themselves.”  

South Dakota farm groups also step up year-round to provide support to the organization in the form of monetary contributions and donated product. Gassen says that assistance is invaluable.  

“I don’t know that I could put into words the value and the importance of the relationship that we have with our ag industry in the state of South Dakota,” he says.

Gassen says the relationship is a special one, because farmers are already feeding the world and they also want to feed hungry individuals in their own state and community.  

“The efficiencies that they’re trying to drive, all the things that are happening in that industry are about being able to produce more and more food, so that we can feed more and more people,” he says.  

The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation continues to be one of the largest farm group supporters for Feeding South Dakota through its annual Prime Time Gala. The event raised $228,000 last year alone, and Gassen says those dollars allowed Feeding South Dakota to buy well over 150,000 pounds of beef, which is a commodity that is very difficult to attain.  

“Protein is one of those products that is so hard for us to get donated. We distribute over 12 million pounds of food a year and less than 7 percent of that is protein,” he says.

Many other commodity organizations provide support to Feeding South Dakota, including the South Dakota Corn Growers Association with their Showdown Series.  

With the tough economic times in the agricultural industry, Gassen says the generous donations farmers and farm groups make to Feeding South Dakota are even more admirable.

“The ag industry seems to have more downs than ups, but you look at an industry that never gives up, that never quits,” Gassen says. “They have a love for the land, they have a love for what they do, and they have a real purpose for wanting to feed this country.”

He says that gives all South Dakotans a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  

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