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Published October 27 2011

Students kick off Fill the Dome drive

FARGO – North High School senior Sarah Russell figures the notion of filling the cavernous Fargodome with food must have sounded outlandish when it was first proposed.

“It must have seemed ridiculous at the time, but anyone who has seen the time lapse of the dome actually being filled understands the purpose,” she said.

Russell was part of a group of high school students who kicked off the fifth annual Fill the Dome food drive Thursday. The goal for this year’s event: collect half a million meals.

Kristina Heggedal, a Fargo South High School junior, said the event’s student organizers decided to calculate the goal in meals rather than pounds or dollars raised to emphasize the human element of the food drive.

“We wanted to bring it back to being a lot more personal,” she said. “We decided that calculating our goal in meals would be the best way to do that.”

This year’s goal represents about 50,000 more meals than last year’s final haul. In 2010, between 193,600 pounds of food collected (a meal is about 1.3 pounds) and $75,000 raised (a food bank can provide four meals for $1), Fill the Dome collected about 450,000 meals.

Since the event began in 2007, Fill the Dome has collected more than 300 tons of food and more than $250,000 in donations for local food pantries. More than 60 schools will be involved in the drive this year.

Linda Clark of the Fargo-Moorhead Hunger Coalition praised the students for getting involved and making a difference.

“Every day, every month, we meet all these wonderful people who need help,” she said. “Because of what the students are doing, it’s possible for us to help them.”

Clark said her organization served about 45,000 meals to about 2,200 people in September. She shared the story of one man who came to pick up food but wouldn’t come inside because he thought he was too dirty. When he returned a second time – this time cleaned up and on his way out of town – he was so grateful that he gave Clark a kiss on the cheek.

The main drop-off locations for Fill the Dome food donations are the main branches of Sanford Health and Gate City Bank. Hornbacher’s will also accept donations on Nov. 21 – the same day the dome will be open for drop-offs.

For more information, visit www.fillthedome.org.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502