FARGO, North Dakota — North Dakota gardeners are being urged to donate fruits and vegetables to a program that helps feed hungry people around the state.
The Hunger Free ND Garden Project is in its fifth year. In the first four years, the program spearheaded by the state Agriculture Department and the Great Plains Food Bank generated nearly 500 tons of produce for food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
The need for food aid continues to grow, and North Dakota gardeners can help meet that need by planting an extra row of fruits or veggies, state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. The goal is 1 million servings of fresh produce, he said.
"Sadly in a state that produces so much food, hunger is very much a problem here — our largest food bank has seen an almost 12 percent increase in the need for services in the past year," Goehring said. "Sadder yet, almost 40 percent of those needing help are children."
More than 80,000 people now rely on the Great Plains Food Bank for nutrition help, according to Program Director Steve Sellent.
"We regularly hear how much having access to these fruits and vegetables is appreciated," he said.
Other partners in the program are North Dakota State University's Master Gardener Program, the NDSU Extension Service, Dakota College at Bottineau's Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture, Creating a Hunger Free ND Coalition, Healthy North Dakota and the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society.