As Congress haggles over the food stamp program, at least three major North Dakota cities are doing their best to fight hunger at home and abroad.
Minot -- "Feed My Starving Children" Nov. 23
Barring another flood, 3,000 volunteers will gather in the North Dakota State Fair Center in Minot to pack 500,000 meals for starvation-impacted children on Saturday, Nov. 23, in the "Feed My Starving Children" program.
In 2010, 1,600 Minot area volunteers packed 309,000 meals in one day. The Souris River flood dampened packing plans for the past couple of years but Minot is coming back this year with a vision.
The cost for the ingredients for 500,000 meals will be $110,000. To raise the funds, volunteers will be encouraged to each raise $50 which would pay for the food they pack.
According to the Rev. Gerald Roise of Bethany Lutheran Church, project coordinator, the Minot area FMSC is an interdenominational campaign supported by a wide variety of churches, community organizations, service clubs and schools.
He welcomes groups and individuals from throughout the state to "share in this uplifting experience."
Fargo-Moorhead -- "Fill-the-Dome" Nov. 25-26
Another kind of metro-wide food campaign is "Fill-the-Dome" in Fargo where high school students will cover the floor of the Fargodome with nonperishable foodstuffs for the food pantries in the Fargo-Moorhead region on Nov. 25-26.
The Metro Area Student Ambassadors, the sponsoring organization, is made up of one or two representatives from each of the Fargo-Moorhead high schools. "Fill-the-Dome" is a student-run outreach.
According to Cole Bachmeier, this year's coordinator, "Fill-the-Dome" has raised $347,000 in cash donations and collected 648,000 pounds of food during the six years the project has been in operation. That averages out to around $60,000 and 5 tons of food each year.
Grand Forks Region --"Feed My Starving Children" April 4-6, 2014
The Greater Grand Forks-Northern Red River Valley region-wide "Feed My Starving Children" campaign is now organizing and raising $88,000 to pack 400,000 meals in the Grand Forks Public Works Building on April 4-6, 2014.
Under the leadership of Bruce and Jodie Storhaug of Calvary Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, the Greater Grand Forks project packed more than 1 million meals during its three years of operation.
To finance the ingredients for the meals, the Greater Grand Forks FMSC interdenominational committee uses a wide variety of fundraising ideas, including collecting pocket change in church services, selling car wash tickets, earning tips at pizza restaurants, soliciting businesses and civic organizations, and selling FMSC promo T-shirts.
The Greater Grand Forks project also collects food for area food pantries.
Great Plains Food Bank, Fargo-Moorhead
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the food program of the Great Plains Food Bank, a subsidiary of Lutheran Social Services, with the largest ongoing food program in North Dakota through 260 feeding programs in 99 communities, and collecting around 11 million pounds of food annually.
While the efforts in Minot, Fargo and Grand Forks are exemplary, they need not be exclusive. They can be replicated by communities and churches all across North Dakota. (Hope Lutheran in Fargo will be doing its own FMSC project of 100,000 meals in December.)
Recently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked states according to their giving and North Dakota ranked near the bottom -- the lowest of any state west of the Mississippi. The best way to repudiate this finding is to put feet to our compassion with more projects such as the ones in Minot, Fargo and Grand Forks.
(Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director)