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NDSU Extension Master Gardener: Feeding the Hungry

NDSU Extension Master Gardeners are using their training and talents to produce and collect fresh fruits and vegetables to donate to local food pantries.

The Situation

North Dakota is the land of plenty. Leading the nation in the production of agricultural crops such as spring wheat, canola, flax, honey, pulse crops and sunflowers, one can forget that hunger exists in this great state. However, one in ten people in North Dakota depend upon food pantries to keep hunger at bay. Approximately 40% of all food pantry clients are children. The number of senior citizens utilizing food pantries has also dramatically increased.

Food pantries typically receive large donations of canned and boxed goods from donors. Quality fresh fruits and vegetables are typically in short supply and are especially valuable for maintaining a healthy diet.

Extension Response

The Extension Master Gardener Program is concerned about food insecurity in North Dakota. To combat hunger, many Master Gardeners used their considerable training and talents to produce bumper crops of fresh fruits and vegetables for donation to local food pantries around the state.

In addition, Master Gardeners in Cass and Clay Counties collected locally-grown fruits and vegetables from the general public and from commercial producers. In 2018, Master Gardeners in Cass and Clay Counties staffed five collection points strategically distributed across West Fargo, Fargo, and Moorhead on Monday evenings and then delivered the produce to the pantries the following morning. The collection points were advertised through newspapers, television news interviews, social media and by word of mouth.

Impacts

In 2018, Master Gardeners in eleven counties grew 6,586 lbs. of fresh produce for donation to local food pantries. This total included 678 pounds from the Ward County Master Gardeners that was produced on their potatoes under straw demonstration plot.

Additionally, Master Gardeners in Cass and Clay Counties collected 6,294 lbs. of fresh produce from the general public and local producers to benefit the Fargo Emergency Food Pantry and the Dorothy Day Food Pantry in Moorhead.

In total, Master Gardeners across the state donated or collected 51,520 servings of fruits and vegetables to feed the hungry.

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