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Heidi Shaffer, Published September 17 2011

F-M food pantry needs $250,000 by end of November to facilitate move to larger location

FARGO – The Fargo-Moorhead Emergency Food Pantry still needs more than $250,000 by the end of November to move into a new, larger space.

The pantry, which serves residents in Cass and Clay counties, started looking for funds to help relocate the cramped north Fargo nonprofit.

Organizers are hoping the almost $850,000 project can start by the end of the year, with hopes of opening in the spring, said Wayne Hankel, a pantry board member.

Pantry supporters want to move from the small space at 1438 10th St. N. to a new city-owned site near downtown Fargo’s Cooper House on Fourth Avenue North.

So far $565,000 has been raised through public funding, grants and private donations.

“We’re getting donations every day,” Hankel said. Some are $10,000 and some are closer to $50.

The city of Fargo is dedicating $250,000 of its federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and Mayor Dennis Walaker called out to the other F-M communities to also fund the project.

Clay County stepped up with $25,000.

“That’s a gigantic contribution considering everything that’s going on,” said Dan Mahli, a Fargo senior planner who is helping with the pantry project. “It sends this message that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the Minnesota or North Dakota side of the river; we’re going to work together to feed hungry people.”

Moorhead Council members voted 4-4 to move forward with a public hearing to use $50,000 of the city’s own CDBG funds. Mayor Mark Voxland broke the tie, and the board will vote on the issue following the yet-to-be-determined public hearing.

Cass County decided not to fund its $50,000 share for which Walaker was asking. County Administrator Keith Berndt said commissioners faced cutting the county’s own social services and were unwilling to raise property taxes for a Fargo-owned building project.

West Fargo has yet to respond to the request for $25,000, Mahli said.

In the past year, the pantry provided a week’s supply of groceries valued at $1.5 million to more than 25,000 clients – 34 percent of which were from Clay County and 66 percent from Cass, Mahli said.

The pantry’s board met earlier this month with more than 40 faith organizations to help make their congregations aware of the nonprofit’s need.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511