Organizations that help feed hungry South Dakotans are concerned their supplies will run short this holiday season unless individuals and civic groups step forward to help.
The group Feeding South Dakota has encouraged earlier-than-usual food drives because unexpected events, particularly weather-related emergencies, have nearly depleted the state’s food-drive inventory. According to Jennifer Stensaas, the group’s marketing and communications coordinator, in July the Food Pantry in Sioux Falls saw a 44 percent increase in families served from a year earlier.
“It’s not just the pantries in Sioux Falls and Rapid City that are seeing this increase in the number of people who are being served,” she said. “It’s really a statewide issue.”
For every $1 donated, she said, Feeding South Dakota can provide three meals to anyone experiencing food insecurity, which affects more than one in 10 people in the state.
Stensaas said many seeking short-term help with food say a lack of access to school meals during the summer creates a financial hardship, and back-to-school expenses add to that burden. But she noted that this year, the strain on food pantries started early, following the government shutdown that lasted from Dec. 22 through Jan. 25.
“A lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, we found, were coming and asking for help for the first time ever,” she said, “and then, you’ve got natural disasters. Boy, we’ve just had our share of them — between tornadoes in Sioux Falls and flooding in Pierre — where we’ve been seeing just an increase of people who are looking for just a little bit of help.”
Food items recommended for donation include peanut butter, canned chicken and tuna, and pasta products. People interested in organizing a food drive can email feedingsouthdakota.org to help them get started.