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Kelly Smith, Published October 30 2009

Students kick off third annual Fill the Dome with a goal of 75 tons of food

Nix candy corn and chocolate bars. Today, some trick-or-treaters will be sweetly soliciting not for candy but for canned food.

It’s the kickoff weekend to this year’s student-led, student-run Fill the Dome food drive, which aims to raise $75,000 and cover the floor of the Fargodome with 75 tons of food in less than a month.

“Obviously, a food drive isn’t going to solve hunger,” said Joe Burgum, a junior at Fargo Oak Grove Lutheran School. “But we hope by raising awareness and giving money we’ll be able to … initiate programs that will help.”

Thursday was the official kickoff of the food drive, which ends Nov. 23.

In the past two years, these teens have helped collect more than $60,000 and 100 tons of food.

Now they want to make a greater impact, proving the project isn’t just a fleeting food drive.

“We want the community members to realize that we’re doing this for a cause and that this is a real issue within Fargo-Moorhead,” Fargo South High School senior Evan Bong said. “People do go hungry, and we need to stop it.”

Students hope to get 7,500 signatures for a petition to the North Dakota Legislature showing the local community’s awareness and urging policymakers to step up in solving hunger issues.

“We feel that this hunger petition will invoke action by local and state government that can affect hunger here in our community,” said Elena Arvig, who travels more than an hour from Perham, Minn., to participate in the project.

She helped extend the food drive to her school – now one of 50-plus local elementary, middle and high schools involved with the food drive.

“The main goal … is not the competition,” Northern Cass senior Anna Andersson said. “It’s instilling the awareness of hunger in our community and proving that young people can make a difference.”

Donations go to the Great Plains Food Bank and are then distributed to local food shelves and shelters such as the YWCA Cass Clay. Last year’s donations provided food to local families for about nine months at the YWCA Cass Clay, Executive Director Erin Prochnow said.

“This project, more than just tangibly providing food, raises the awareness level,” she added. “These students instill in our community a sense of giving back, both to young and old.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515