For most people in the United States, access to thrice daily meals that are delicious and nutritious is a privilege that many take for granted. But according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s research on food security in the United States, 12.3% of households were food-insecure in 2016. Meaning, these households do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. In South Dakota, the food insecurity rate is as high as 16.5%, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study. However, 2017 Community First Awards winner, Yankton Food for Thought, is looking to reduce that rate, one meal at a time.
Founded in 2009, Yankton Food for Thought is nonprofit organization that strives to end hunger in the Yankton, South Dakota area. “Our mission is to provide food and nutritional education in order to help school age children and their families achieve,” said Carla Hummel, Board President, Yankton Food for Thought. “We work to achieve our mission mainly through our Yankton Sack Pack and Food Pantry Programs.”
Each week during the school year, the Yankton Sack Pack Program provides sacks packed with weekend meals for nearly 400 students in the Yankton School District. The packs are assembled by volunteers and consist of fruit, breakfast, lunch and snack items, as well as fruit juices. The program is not limited to the weekends during the academic school year. During longer breaks such as winter or spring breaks, a jar of peanut butter or pancakes and syrup is sent home along with the normal sack pack. Also, the program continues to provide 70 packs per week during the summer break.
The Food Pantry is located at a local elementary school, where families are invited to shop for groceries twice a month, free of charge. The pantry is stocked with all of the food groups including meat, produce, canned goods, bread, and cereal. There is even a staff member on site that occasionally prepares food for the families to sample.
Access to quality and affordable food is not the only issue when it comes to providing families with nutritious meals. “We found out that a lot of families simply do not know how to prepare the food we are giving them,” said Hummel. “So we developed a meal preparation class to help families learn how to cook quality and nutritious meals.” As an added bonus, attendees who attend six classes within a school year are given a free crock pot and recipes to take home. There are also plans to create videos of the recipes as they are being made and play them at the pantry as well as post them to Yankton Food for Thought’s Facebook page.
Food for Thought operates the Sack Pack and Food Pantry programs on a budget of approximately $70,000 per year. The bulk of their food is supplied at a reduced cost from their partnership with Feeding South Dakota, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Funds to purchased food are raised solely by donations and grants from caring individuals and organizations in the Yankton Area. In 2017, Food for Thought was the winner of First National Bank’s 2017 Community First Awards where they received a $10,000 donation, all of which was used to purchase food for their programs.
“The Community First Awards had a huge impact on our ability to provide meals for people in our community, said Hummel.” “The Food Pantry, in particular, is a relatively new program so winning the $10,000 donation really helped to stock the shelves.”
To learn more about Yankton Food for Thought, visit their Facebook page.