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By Paul Flessland, pflessland@forumcomm.com, Published March 22 2013

Great Plains Food Bank marks 30 ‘strong’ years of service

FARGO – The Great Plains Food Bank celebrates two milestones this month as their hunger for helping continues to grow.

This month is the 30-year anniversary of the food bank, an anniversary that comes as the nonprofit celebrates hitting another important mark – it has collected enough food over those three decades to have served 100 million meals.

“We are certainly excited to be celebrating 30 strong years,” said Marcia Paulson, the director of marketing and development for Great Plains. “It’s been a great journey.”

Great Plains stocks nearly all local food shelves and shelters throughout North Dakota and Clay County in Minnesota, having expanded exponentially since it first opened its doors on March 22, 1983, to distribute surplus product from the food industry.

Steve Sellent, program director at Great Plains, said the success of the food bank is due to community and volunteer support.

“I think it’s a testament to the generosity of our community,” he said. The food bank has about 5,000 volunteers and 260 partner agencies.

Sellent, who has been the food bank’s program director for almost 23 years, has seen many changes that have helped Great Plains, which serves all of North Dakota and Clay County in Minnesota.

Great Plains – a program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota – had only one truck when Sellent started, but they now have six, including semi tractors and trailers.

“We’re distributing more food in a month than we used to do in an entire year,” he said.

In 2012 alone, the food bank collected and distributed more than 11 million pounds of food, most of which would have otherwise gone to waste.

“We touch the lives of one in 10 individuals in need,” said Paulson, which comes to about 75,000 people per year.

Hunger is an issue that cannot be solved overnight, but Sellent sees a bright future for Great Plains.

“The next 30 years will be as exciting as the last 30 years have been,” he said.

“These are exciting times,” said Paulson. “There’s a lot of work yet to do, but we’re happy to be doing it.”

Sellent added that Great Plains is working on some new initiatives, but they are not ready to reveal them at this time.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary, Great Plains will host an open house for the public on May 1.

There will be open houses throughout the summer at the food bank’s other locations in Williston, Watford City, Devils Lake and Bismarck.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Paul Flessland at (701) 241-5502