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Sanford Health Donates $3 Million to Food Banks Across Upper Midwest

Oct 16, 2020 08:37AM ● By MED Magazine
Food banks across the nation have experienced a sharp rise in need and expenses since the onset of the global pandemic of COVID-19. To help ease that burden, and to promote good health in the communities it serves, Sanford Health has announced one of the largest ever donations to a series of food banks in the Upper Midwest. The $3 million gift will be split across Feeding South Dakota, Great Plains Food Bank, North Country Food Bank, Second Harvest North Central Foodbank, Second Harvest Heartland, Food Bank of Siouxland and Food Bank of Iowa.

“At Sanford Health, we have always said we invest in the communities that we serve, and we have had a long-standing relationship with these organizations,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., Sanford Health senior vice president and chief medical officer. “Good health starts with good nutrition, and when we heard about the sharp increases in demand for food, we knew we needed to step in and help. Not having access to nutritious food can lead to the development of chronic illnesses and often aggravates the severity of existing conditions. This is a major investment in the well-being of our communities.” 

The donation coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nation’s World Food Day, which promotes worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all. The United Nations estimates that two billion people do not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food on a regular basis. Research shows that food insecurity is linked to health risks including a range of chronic diseases in adults and developmental challenges in children.

Feeding South Dakota reaches 95,000 people annually who struggle with hunger. That number and need has increased over the last several months as the pandemic set in across the state. To help, Feeding South Dakota has increased mobile food distributions. With an average of 115 mobile distributions each month, Feeding South Dakota connects with 100 communities across the state and distributes 1.7 million pounds of food each month.

The Great Plains Food Bank, based in Fargo, North Dakota, has experienced a similar increase in clients experiencing food insecurities across the entire state. The organization has faced a 40 percent spike in demand compared to the previous year. That comes to 6 million additional meals through its COVID-19 response effort. More than 33,000 new individuals have turned to the Great Plains Food Bank during this time of uncertainty.

North Country Food Bank is on the front lines against hunger in 21 counties in northwest and west central Minnesota, and the Grand Forks, North Dakota, area. Similar to others across the region, North Country Food Bank has also faced a steep increase in demand from last year’s 5.5 million meals that were distributed.

Second Harvest North Central Foodbank is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and serves the north central region of the state. It too has experienced unprecedented demand and is bracing for even greater need as winter sets in. It is estimated it will see another increase of 40 to 60 percent in the need for charitable food assistance over the next several months.

Second Harvest Heartland serves 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Annually, it distributes enough food for 97 million meals. However, that is not enough in today’s climate as it is experiencing a 65 percent increase in need from this time last year. The contribution from Sanford Health will help ensure its locations in central and southwest Minnesota reach those who are food insecure, including the Manna Food Pantry in Worthington, and the Jackson Food Shelf in Jackson.

Food Bank of Siouxland provides food for 100 member agencies across 11 counties in northwest Iowa. It too has experienced an increase in need and expenses with numerous new individuals and families turning to the Food Bank of Siouxland as paychecks became uncertain or unavailable during the pandemic.

Food Bank of Iowa supplied its communities with 19 million pounds of nutritious food in the last year alone, and the need is increasing. In less than a year, food insecurity in Iowa has doubled. The number of households with children facing food insecurity has tripled in that same amount of time. Food Bank of Iowa helps individuals and families across 55 Iowa counties – coving small town and large cities.

“We all need to be good neighbors, especially in difficult times like this,” said Suttle. “We encourage our employees, and everyone in the communities we serve, to come together, support their local food banks, and by additional donations and volunteering our time, we can help eliminate hunger for those facing uncertainty during this ongoing pandemic.”