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Wendy Reuer, Published October 12 2011

Moorhead considers contribution to food pantry in Fargo

MOORHEAD - When it comes to funding nonprofits, one council member here says those located in the city should come first.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said he would prefer the F-M Emergency Food Shelter request of $50,000 in Community Block Grant funds go to a nonprofit in Moorhead rather than one that will be built in Fargo.

The F-M Emergency Food Pantry is planning to build an expanded

$1 million facility at 402 11 St. N. in Fargo.

The pantry has raised more than 70 percent of its goal and is generally funded by local churches, donations and volunteer hours.

“This special relocation project is the first time that the food pantry has ever asked for public funds,” said Gyda Anderson, an Emergency Food Pantry board member.

Fargo has chipped in $250,000, while Clay County and West Fargo have committed to $25,000 each. Cass County denied a $50,000 pantry request due to its budget.

Moorhead’s contribution would not come from its general fund but a Community Development Block Grant, a federal grant the city receives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lisa Vatnsdal, Moorhead Neighborhood Services manager, said the funds would not be taken away from other programs in the community.

“It’s funds available from prior years’ budgeting of that grant. So nothing from the current year’s programming is being affected by this proposed allocation,” Vatnsdal said.

The F-M Emergency Food Pantry may be located in Fargo but – like the Dorothy Day Food Pantry in Moorhead – would serve residents from both states.

Wayne Henkel, vice president of the Emergency Food Pantry’s board of directors, said in September 48.7 tons of food were given out. Of that, 13 tons went to Moorhead residents. In 2010, 27 percent of the F-M Emergency Food Pantry clients were from Moorhead, he said.

At the Dorothy Day House Food Pantry – which provides food baskets to those in need twice a week – clientele is split evenly between Cass and Clay counties.

“There is an assumption we need to help Fargo because 27 percent are from Moorhead,” Hintermeyer said Monday. “I’m not sure why that matters one way or another. They both serve a purpose. Clearly, people go across state lines.”

Dorothy Day board member Bill Beutler said although a new roof at the Main Street location is needed, the nonprofit needs more time to assess its needs, which may include parking.

“We are not ready,” Beutler said

In the meantime, Dorothy Day supports allocating money for the Emergency Food Pantry, Beutler said.

Beutler said Dorothy Day would likely request capital improvement funds from Fargo as well as Moorhead once needs are assessed.

“Instead of sending money back and forth, why don’t we just set it aside for you folks as the need dictates?” Hintermeyer told Beutler on Monday at a City Council meeting.

On Monday, Councilwoman Nancy Otto said she would like to see something in writing from Fargo saying it would support Dorothy Day before she can vote on the Emergency Food Pantry allocation.

“We all need to work together on this. I don’t think it matters what town you’re in. It’s nice to have a food shelter you can get to as a family when you can get there,” Beutler said Wednesday.

Councilwoman Diane Wray Williams said Wednesday that she feels the need is not divided by the Red River.

“We live in a community. I’m proud when my community steps forward, but we need that facility in Fargo; we need them to be there.” she said. “I don’t want to play politics with that. Let’s address the problem because we have such a huge problem.”

Wray Williams said more than 900 homeless people were counted last year, yet there is room for only 325 beds at shelters throughout the metro area.

Vatnsdal said additional resources for other food pantries and nonprofits are planned for the 2012 CDBG budget.

“All of it is subject to City Council approval,” Vatnsdal said.

The Moorhead City Council will vote whether to allocate funds to the F-M Emergency Food Pantry at its Oct. 24 meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530